To begin with, let me present to you some of my thoughts regarding the principle of Independence of Justice and the legal profession, under the scope of providing protection within the global society of citizens, where nations live in piece and feel deep respect for human rights.
We participate in this conference at the dawn of the year 2000, having the ambition to acquire a creative part, as Greek lawyers, in such a way, that this conference will actually become a major event for the international community of lawyers. It is true that the time is now more than ever, that we need to redefine the independence of our profession and moreover to interfere in the social and political framework of current international legal affairs.
The fact that we meet in this “corner” of the world, is a distinct proof that the necessity for adjustment to new standards, for innovation and review of our goals and priorities, has become more intense than ever.
The dreadful earthquakes of August ’99 in Turkey and September ’99 in Greece, that have been a tremendous wound for both of our countries, have perhaps created a geological gap, yet they have reduced the social and political gap that existed for years between our people. Feelings of solidarity, as expressed by simple individuals as well as by various social groups, have shown in a crystal clear way that the time has come for prejudices to be vanished and for the barriers that used to stand between the two sides of the Aegean Sea to fall.
We do not have the illusion that the radical change in the Greek – Turkish relationships is a matter to be encountered within a few months. However, we can be certain that, although the course of re-approach still has a difficult and long way to go, it is rather positive that both Governments have shown their ability to distinguish between the total common interest of good neighbourhood from the narrowly defined matters of conflict. Moreover, they also seemed to acknowledge the very important role that both simple citizens as well as social bodies have acquired throughout this process.
Periodic conflicts or problems that may arise should definitely be discussed and dealt with under the scope of international legal statuses and rules, rather than lead to conditions of war between the two neighbouring countries.
For us who cope with Legal Science, Justice is and always will be our foremost consideration, not only as an inevitable obligation to a solid, distinct, independent and safeguarded authority, but mainly as an expression of our passion and instinct to preserve the principles of freedom and equality against Society and the Law as the core of our ideology.
The creation of strategic moves for mutual presence of lawyers in the new European environment, in Europe of united people, in Europe of citizens, in Europe as society, requires, among other, brave and innovative actions towards the protection of Justice and the International Judicial system.
The legal culture of a country is clearly reflected upon the content and operation of its Justice.
Now, I would like to present briefly the structure of the lawyer’s profession in my country, Greece.
The lawyer’s profession in Greece is supposed to be especially organized and it is governed, among other rules, by the “Code of Lawyers”, a special Legal Act that includes detailed articles about its function, not merely as a profession but also with respect to the provision of public services.
In Greece there is no Central National Bar Association but each major city has its own local Bar Association.
At a national level there exists the Assembly of Chairmen of all Bar Associations in Greece, the Chairman of which is the President of the Athens Bar Association, who is appointed by law.
Every three years, elections take place with the participation of several candidate parties, which usually rely ideologically on the major political parties.
Lately, there seems to be an attempt to separate the general function of Bar Associations from the influence of political parties.
In order for Law University graduates who have completed four years of legal studies, to acquire license to perform the Lawyers profession in Greece, they must subscribe to their local Bar Associations respectively and receive training for eighteen months.
Said training is rendered by an experienced lawyer for above eighteen-month period and at the end of this process, trainees take exams before a five-member committee. Success in such examinations is considered to be a rather typical process because in Greece the system of “numerus clausus”, as far as our profession is concerned, does not exist.
Consequently, in our days the major problem under consideration regarding our profession is intensely connected with the great number of Lawyers practicing in Greece. Our country is probably among the first countries worldwide with the highest percentage of lawyers per numbers of inhabitants. In Athens alone, there exist 17,000 lawyers and 10,000 lawyers or more operate in the rest of the country.
Lawyers’ independence in Greece is absolutely protected in every respect. A lawyer can neither be prosecuted nor charged for his approaches and opinions and moreover he is legally protected for the confidentiality of information that he receives while practicing his profession.
This conference should have as its major task to contribute to the reinforcement and the promotion of our common legal civilizations, based upon the opinions, inquiries and approaches of the Lawyers’ community, that has always been considered as a pioneer force, in terms of struggling for the promotion and the independence of Justice.
With these thoughts, I wish you all the best for the success of this conference.
- Member of the Council of the Athens Bar Association
- Head of the Committee for Greek – Turkish relationships