Date: 2nd December 2019
The Greek Parliament has voted the new legislation on Mediation in Civil and Commercial Disputes and further harmonization of the Greek legislation with the provisions of Directive 2008/52/EC on certain aspects of mediation in civil and commercial matters (Law 4640/2019). The new legislation aims towards expediting legal proceedings in Greece and offering a rather fast-track enforceable title to the counterparties who/which shall successfully participate in the respective mediation sessions.
According to article 6 of the new legislation, the following disputes shall have to be obligatorily referred to an initial session of mediation prior to their referral to the competent court: (a) certain family law disputes; (b) all civil and commercial disputes which come under the competency of all Single-Member Courts of Greece referring to claims over EUR 30.000; (c) all civil and commercial disputes which come under the competency of all Multi-Member Courts of Greece and (d) all disputes arising from agreements including an explicit mediation clause.
In cases of non-compliance to the above mandatory initial mediation session, the hearing of the respective actions shall be rejected as inadmissible by the competent Courts.
According to par. 2 of article 6, all disputes in which the Greek State or any public entity/organization is one of the counterparties, are excluded from the above obligations.
According to article 4 of the new law, optional mediation is provided in the following cases: (a) when the counterparties mutually agree to initiate mediation proceedings; (b) when the counterparties have concluded an agreement including a mediation clause; (c) when initiating mediation proceedings is provided for by the law and (d) when initiating mediation proceedings has been imposed by another Member-State’s judicial authority, as long as the relevant submission is not contrary to Greek public policy provisions.
The initiation of mediation proceedings does not exclude the filing of petitions for the granting of interim measures in cases where elements of urgency or imminent danger exist.
According to the new law, lawyers are obliged to inform their clients, in writing, about the mediation option, as well as about the fact that a specific dispute falls under the mandatory mediation provisions. This document must be further signed by the lawyer and the client and submitted before the competent court when the disputes reaches this procedural stage (article 3). In case said documents is not further attached to the lawsuit which shall be filed before the competent Courts, the lawsuit shall be considered as inadmissible itself.
Highlights of the mediation proceedings include the following:
The mediator is usually one and can be appointed by the parties (in case of mutual consent) or by a Central Committee (in case of disagreement);
The mediator has to notify the parties at least 5 days prior to the initial mandatory session, on the date of mediation by registered letter or electronically and request for a receipt of said notification;
The 1st mediation session has to take place within twenty (20) days following the next day of the mediator’s being notified of the petition for initiation of mediation by the interested litigant party (this deadline is extended for 10 more days in case one of the counterparties is residing/having its registered seat abroad). During the 1st mandatory session, the mediator shall inform the parties of the procedure and the principles of mediation;
Counterparties shall have to attend these proceedings in person (legal entities through their legal representative) along with their lawyers, save for small claims up to EUR 5.000 and consumer protection claims;
Following the 1st session, the parties may either decide to opt out and refer the case to the courts or to opt in and proceed with the next sessions of mediation;
In case the parties decide to refer their case to the competent courts, they have to submit the minutes proving the attempt and failure of the mediation; In case the parties decide to move on with the mediation procedure, the mediator shall provide guidelines on the next steps to follow. The procedure is confidential and no minutes are allowed to be kept. Parties participating in mediation proceedings are excluded from being examined as witnesses in case of an unsuccessful outcome. The mediation sessions may also be conducted through tele-conference;
The mediation proceedings cannot last more than forty (40) days following the initial session, but the law provides for a possibility of the parties to mutually consent to a reasonable extension of this deadline.
Successful mediation proceedings and enforcement of mediated settlement agreements
According to article 8 of the law, an agreement which is signed by all participating parties following the respective mediation sessions, may constitute an enforceable title following a simple filing of the respective mediation minutes before the competent court. In cases of international disputes however, it remains to be seen how said enforceability will work, due to the lack of an efficient process of enforcement, especially when taking into consideration the fact that Greece has not yet ratified the Singapore Convention on International Settlement Agreements resulting from Mediation.
Entry into Force
The mandatory introduction of the mediation process will take into effect as of 15.01.2020 for family law disputes and as of 15.03.2020 for cases subject to the competency of the Single-Member (claims over EUR 30.000) and Multi-Member Courts.
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