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Basic Facts about the Country

Membership of the European Union

1 January 1981

Membership of the Council of Europe

9 August 1949

Entry into force of the European Convention on Human Rights

28 November 1974

Basic Facts about the Judiciary

Budget per inhabitant

Number of professional judges per 100,000 inhabitants


Tiers in the ordinary court system


First Instance Courts


Higher Courts (appeals)


First Instance Administrative Courts


Administrative Courts of Appeal


Supreme Court (Court of Cassation)


Council of State (Supreme Administrative Court)


Court of Audit (Supreme Financial Court)


Constitutional Court

There is a diffuse system: Every Greek court may find a law unconstitutional and set it aside (refuse to apply it, rather than invalidate) in a ruling non-binding for other courts. On very rare occasions, the Special Highest Court may invalidate statutes (primary legislation). This court is composed of judges from the three highest courts plus two law professors. It is presided over by the president of the Supreme Administrative Court or the Supreme Civil and Criminal Court, based on seniority. In addition, the Council of State (the highest administrative court) may invalidate secondary legislation (administrative acts


Sixty-three prosecution offices at the first instance, 19 prosecution offices at the courts of appeal, and the general prosecutor of the Supreme Court.

Gender breakdown of judges

All instances


Supreme court

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Judicial Governance

Type of governance system

Judicial council model - Moderate

Supreme Judicial Council

  • Each of the top (supreme) courts has a judicial council, composed of the president of the respective supreme court and the members of the same court, chosen by lot from among those having served in it for at least two years. There is one at the Supreme Civil and Criminal Court, one at the Supreme Administrative Court, and one at the Court of Audit.
  • Should the minister disagree with the decision of the Supreme Judicial Council, they may refer the matter to the plenum of the respective supreme court, as specified by law. The decisions of the plenum, as a second instance supreme judicial council, on a matter referred to it, as well as the decisions of the Supreme Judicial Council with which the minister has not disagreed, shall be binding upon the minister.
  • The tenure of the members of the Supreme Judicial Council, who are chosen by lot, is one year.
  • The number for the supreme administrative and supreme criminal and civil courts is 11, or 15 for certain issues, and nine for the Court of Audit, or 11 for certain issues.

Supreme Disciplinary Council

  • Composed of the president of the Supreme Administrative Court, as its chairperson, and of two vice presidents or councilors of the Supreme Administrative Court, two vice presidents or members of the Supreme Civil and Criminal Court, two vice presidents or councilors of the Court of Audit, and two law professors from the law schools of the country’s universities
  • Members of the Council are chosen by lot from among those having at least three years of service in the respective supreme court or law school.
  • In cases involving disciplinary action against members of the Supreme Administrative Court, the Supreme Disciplinary Council is presided over by the president of the Supreme Civil and Criminal Court

Disciplinary Councils (in the first and second instance courts)

  • Composed of regular judges, chosen by lot

Court Presidents

  • Top court presidents will be appointed by presidential decree, issued on the proposal of the Cabinet, by selection from among the members of the respective supreme court, as specified by law.
  • The tenure of the president of the Supreme Administrative Court, of the Supreme Civil and Criminal Court, and of the Court of Audit, as well as the public prosecutor of the Supreme Civil and Criminal Court, may not exceed four years.

National School of Judges

Distribution of Responsibility

Supreme Judicial Council
  • Issues decisions on the appointment of judges, following the probationary term of 10 months, which subsequently come into effect by presidential decree
  • Issues decisions on “promotions, assignments to posts, transfers, detachments, and transfers to another branch of magistrates, which will be effected by presidential decree
  • Issues fully reasoned decisions about the suspension of a judge, based on which the minister of justice proposes suspension, and the president issues the associated decree
  • Judges can be dismissed by the competent court (plenary). Following the decision, a presidential decree is issued
Supreme Disciplinary Council
  • Exercises disciplinary authority over high-ranking judges and prosecutors. Such disciplinary action is initiated by the minister of justice
Disciplinary Councils (first and second instance courts)
  • Exercise disciplinary authority over all other judges – those in the first and second instance courts. Disciplinary action may also be initiated by the minister of justice.
National School of Judges
  • Responsible for the selection, the initial (pre-entry) theoretical and practical training, and the evaluation of those who are to be appointed as judges on probationary terms, as well as the continuing training of judges already serving
  • Admission to the School is preceded by an open competitive exam, announced by the minister of justice for the three branches.
  • The school training lasts from 16 to 18 months.
  • Following the completion of their initial training, the trainees go through a probationary period of ten months, which is followed by their appointment by a presidential decree, issued after a prior decision by the Supreme Judicial Council.


Political (including parliamentary) appointments of (Supreme Court) judges

The system of appointments to highest positions in the Greek judiciary (presidents and vice presidents of top courts, for example) makes the judiciary susceptible to influence by the executive. Such appointments are made by presidential decree, following a recommendation by the Council of Ministers, by selection among the members of the respective court. Also, unsuccessful candidates are not able to challenge before an independent court the government’s decision not to recommend them for appointment.


Non-participation of judges in this process has been a cause for concern. This setup diverges from the European standard, whereby an independent, competent authority, drawn in substantial part from the judiciary, should make recommendations before the government or the legislature makes decisions concerning the selection of judges or on other issues related to their careers. In its 2022 Rule of Law Report, the European Commission urged Greece to “address the need for involvement of the judiciary” in such appointments, but no progress has been made. In justifying the failure to implement the recommendation, the Greek Government argued, first, that the involvement of any other organ in the appointment procedure would run contrary to the Constitution. Second, the Government noted that revision of the Constitution was subject to time limitation. The Constitution does not allow for its revision before five years have elapsed since the completion of the previous revision. The last change took place in 2019.


The Greek authorities did, however, highlight a few developments that were meant to mitigate the risks of abuse of power on the part of the executive. It noted that, since 2010, the current system has provided for the involvement of a parliamentary body in the appointment procedure. The authorities also claimed that they had made an effort to limit the discretionary power of the Council of Ministers, by introducing a seniority criterion to the eligibility of candidate judges in 2022; only the most senior judges are eligible for the highest positions in the judiciary.


Governmental pressure on judges/interference with ongoing cases

Legal sources consulted for this resource expressed concern over government pressure on judges, through legislative changes or statements on ongoing cases. In the past, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found Greece to be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, in connection with political statements prejudging outcomes in ongoing court cases. The Konstas case, judgment from 24 May 2011, concerned comments made by Greek ministers about the applicant (a former university professor, minister for the press, and minister plenipotentiary at the Council of Europe) in the context of criminal proceedings against him that were still pending on appeal. The Court found that the government officials’ statements seemed to prejudge the judgment of the Court of Appeal, and to encourage the latter to uphold the applicant’s conviction by the first instance court. The Court paid particular attention to the fact that the remarks had been made by high-ranking politicians and – in the case of the minister of justice – even by a person of authority, who was supposed, based on his position, to show particular restraint when commenting on judicial decisions.


In April 2023, a legislative amendment modified the composition of a Chamber of the Supreme Court that ruled on the legality of political parties’ participation in parliamentary elections, requiring that the decisions of this Chamber be made not only by four members of the court, as previously envisaged by law, but by all members. The vice president of the Court and the president of the Chamber in question, Judge Christos Tzanerikos, took a position on the amendment, stating that “this amendment constitutes a direct interference in the operation of the Supreme Court”, and that it reflected a lack of confidence in him as the chamber president, who determines the five member composition of the chamber. He subsequently resigned and, following his resignation, reported facing government pressure to disqualify a particular party from participating in the elections, with the promise that, in exchange for such help, he would be given a role in an Independent Authority following his retirement from the judiciary. Tzanerikos was to retire in June 2023.

Slow proceedings

Greece is reported to have the slowest justice system in the EU; the length of proceedings has been identified as one of the most significant challenges facing the judiciary. According to the 2023 EU Justice Scoreboard, the disposition time in civil and commercial cases in first instance courts was the longest in the EU, as it reached 728 days in 2021. For administrative cases, the disposition time in 2021 in first instance courts increased to 595 days (from 551 days in 2020). Furthermore, the disposition time for administrative cases in the Council of State reached the very lengthy duration of 1,324 days in 2021 (from 1,107 in 2020). In 2021, the clearance rate for litigious civil and commercial cases decreased to 82 per cent, one of the lowest rates in the EU). On the other side, the clearance rate in 2021 for administrative cases was 130 per cent, one of the highest of the EU – this means that more cases were resolved than came in – although the number of pending administrative cases at the end 2021 remained the most substantial in the EU.

Ineffectiveness and lack of independence of criminal investigations

The ECtHR condemned Greece for serious deficiencies in the conduct of criminal investigations. Greek civil society organisations have argued that the ECtHR judgment had a significant bearing on the credibility and quality of the Greek criminal justice system, and corroborated long-standing concerns on the effectiveness of investigations by law-enforcement officers involving non-nationals.


In Safi and others v. Greece, a judgment rendered final in October 2022, the ECtHR found severe deficiencies in the conduct of criminal investigations into a deadly shipwreck off the coast of the island of Farmakonisi. The ECtHR identified a few issues with the criminal proceedings initiated against the coastguards: (i) serious problems with interpretation, resulting in errors in the survivors’ testimonies that remained part of the case file until the public prosecutor discontinued the proceedings; (ii) the survivors’ request for access to recordings of communications between the coastguards was defined by the public prosecutor, making it difficult for them to participate properly in the proceedings; and (iii) the survivors’ claims pertaining to a push-back attempt by the authorities was summarily dismissed on the basis that such a practice did not exist. In the Court’s view, there were obvious lines of inquiry that had not been pursued, thus undermining the ability of the investigation to determine the exact circumstances in which the boat had sunk.


In another judgment of the ECtHR, also rendered final in October 2022, Torosian v. Greece, the Court found that Greece failed to properly investigate the ill-treatment of a prisoner by police officers. The Court noted that the public prosecutor failed to conduct a thorough assessment of the circumstances of the case, disregarded medical certificates, and dismissed allegations of ill-treatment on the grounds that, had he been beaten by police officers, the victim would have been “dragged to the hospital in a miserable state and his body would not present the elements seen in photographs and the expert report”. The prosecutor also claimed that the beatings of the victim had not been established as a consequence of the acts of police officers.

Rankings and Surveys

Expert Recommendations

European Commission, Rule of Law Report, 2023

Overall, concerning the recommendations in the 2022 Rule of Law Report, Greece has made:

  • No progress on addressing the need for involvement of the judiciary in the appointment of President and Vice-President of the Council of State, the Supreme Court and the Court of Audit taking into account European standards on judicial appointments.


On this basis, and considering other developments that took place in the period of reference, and in addition to recalling the commitments made under the national Recovery and Resilience Plan relating to certain aspects of the justice system and the anti-corruption framework, it is recommended to Greece to:

  • Take steps to address the need for involvement of the judiciary in the appointment of President and Vice-President of the Council of State, the Supreme Court and the Court of Audit taking into account European standards on judicial appointments.
Fourth Evaluation Round, Second Compliance Report, Corruption Prevention, 2020

Adopted by GRECO at its 85th Plenary Meeting (Strasbourg, 21 – 25 September 2020)

  • 38. GRECO recommended:
    • (i) revising the method of selection concerning the most senior positions of judges and prosecutors so as to involve the peers in the process and
    • (ii) to consider amending the modalities for the initiation of disciplinary proceedings in their respect.
  • 43. GRECO notes that the draft law         amending the “Code on the Organisation of the courts and the status of judges” (Article 60) introduces new provisions for promoting judges and prosecutors to some of the senior positions, which go in the right direction. However, this draft law has not yet been finalised at the level of the Ministry of Justice. It also notes that Parliament does not intend to amend the Constitution.
  • 44. As regards the second part of the recommendation, GRECO notes that a “mapping of the disciplinary procedures for judges and prosecutors and legislative initiatives for the improvement of the judicial system according to international standards” is planned in the 2018-2021 National Anti-corruption Plan. This is a step forward. However, the mere inclusion of an action to be taken into the National Action plan is not enough to strengthen the modalities for the initiation of disciplinary proceedings, especially since the National Action plan has already been implemented for two years and no concrete steps have been taken in this respect
  • 45. GRECO concludes that recommendation xii remains not implemented.


Recommendation xv

  • 57. GRECO recommended that consideration be given to consolidating the various judicial bodies currently responsible for the career, professional supervision and discipline of judges and prosecutors.
  • 60. GRECO notes that consideration has been given to consolidating the various judicial bodies currently responsible for the career, professional supervision and discipline of judges and prosecutors at the highest level of the judiciary and by Parliament. It also notes that constitutional, organisational and financial issues have been considered to that effect. GRECO regrets that these multiple considerations have not resulted in a consolidation or merger of the various bodies of the judiciary of concern, which would have been the ultimate goal, although not a requirement of the current recommendation. However, it acknowledges that the concern raised in the recommendation has been considered by a number of institutions, following the adoption of the Evaluation report. It points out that the specific criteria attached to this “consider-recommendation” have been fulfilled, i.e the issue raised by the recommendation has been considered from various perspectives, by relevant bodies, including the authorities of the judiciary and the legislature. Relevant documentation has been provided to this end.
  • 61. GRECO concludes that recommendation xv has been dealt with in a satisfactory manner.

Compliance with European Courts' Judgements

Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)

State Performance


Number of unimplemented CJEU rulings related to the judiciary

European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

State Performance


Implementation record


Number of leading judgments pending implementation Moderate

34 %

Percentage of leading judgements from the last 10 years still pending implementation Significant



Average time leading judgments have been pending implementation High
Non-Implementation of European Courts Judgments and the Rule of Law | EIN & DRI

Judgements with pending implementation

Selected on relevance to the judiciary / rule of law

Nisiotis v Greece

These cases concern the inhuman and/or degrading treatment of the applicants on account of the poor conditions of detention of the applicants in overcrowded prisons in Greece between 2008 and 2018 (violations of Article 3). In Zografos and Others, the Court found a violation of Article 13, in conjunction with Article 3, on account of the lack of an effective remedy in respect of the applicants’ complaints concerning the conditions of their detention.

General measures towards the establishment of an effective domestic remedy
A draft law which has been tabled before Parliament since July 2020 aimed at establishing a domestic remedy concerning inadequate conditions of detention is still pending. It has been reported that this draft law was debated in Parliament on 14 December 2021 (in the context of a special Parliamentary Committee) in the presence of the Government Agent who advocated its adoption. It however appears necessary that the authorities provide the Committee of Ministers with a concrete and specific timetable for the examination and adoption of the draft law. The Committee expressed concern that despite its repeated calls over the last five years, no effective remedy has been put in place and stressed again that its introduction is urgently needed in view notably of the particularly high number of applications concerning prison detention conditions pending before the Court.

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Mastrogiannis v Greece

This case concerns a violation of the applicant’s right to a fair trial on account of the delayed enforcement of the judgment rendered in his favour in 2012 by the Administrative Court of Appeal, which annulled a decision of the administration not to appoint the applicant to a public service post in place of another candidate and referred the case back to the administration (violation of Article 6 § 1).

The Court also found a violation of Article 13 on account of the absence in domestic law of a remedy which would have enabled the applicant to obtain the enforcement of the above-mentioned judgment.

Action plan/report is awaited.

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House of Macedonian Civilization and Others v. Greece,

The case concerns the refusal of the Greek courts to register the association of the “House of Macedonian Civilization” on the grounds that the use of the term “Macedonian” by the applicant association and the purpose set out in its statutes was contrary to public order and jeopardized the harmonious coexistence of the population of the Florina region and public peace in Greece (§ 11) (violation of Article 11).

The European Court noted that the domestic courts rejected the applicant association’s application for registration on the basis of more or less the same line of reasoning as that adopted by them in the Sidiropoulos and Others case (§38), concerning the same association. The European Court also noted that “in order to assess the purposes and potential activity of the first applicant, the domestic courts relied on the fact that Articles 9-11 of the Convention included the concept of public order among the legitimate purposes likely to justify a restriction of the rights guaranteed… . However, in that case, they should also have taken into account the relevant case-law of the Court, which favours the registration of an association and not the prior review of its legality, when national law provides for clauses allowing for the monitoring of its activity a posteriori” (§ 42).

Law No. 4491/2017 was adopted on 10 October 2017, amending article 758, paragraph 1, of the Code of Civil Procedure. It provides for the reopening of non-contentious proceedings in cases where the European Court has found a violation of the right to a fair trial or any other substantive right enshrined in the Convention. A transitional provision has also been adopted allowing applicants, in cases such as this one, where the European Court’ s judgment predates the entry into force of the amendment, to request reopening within one year of the s publication of the law (i.e., before 13 October 2018).

The authorities have indicated that, to their knowledge, the applicants have not made use of this procedure. The authorities therefore consider that no further individual measure is necessary.

General measures

The authorities indicated that domestic courts promote the registration of associations, in line with the judgment of the European Court, and do not engage in any preventive control of their aims. More than 500 associations whose name includes a derivative of the adjective “Macedonian” are currently registered. It transpires from this that some of them conduct activities that are relevant to the preservation of the cultural heritage of their members.

In its Rule 9 submission of 8 October 2019, Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) noted that the Greek courts had not aligned their case law with the findings of the European Court in the 1998 Sidiropoulos case and that the new registration procedure initiated in 2005 had again been rejected by the Court of Cassation in 2009 on the grounds of public order and national security already criticised, leading to the present Court judgment. The GHM also pointed out that the third attempt to obtain registration on the basis of the Court’s new judgment was rejected on 27 July 2017 by the Florina Court of Peace on the same grounds and with an explicit reference to the 2009 Court of Cassation judgment. The GHM noted that the new reopening Law No. 4491/2017 entered into force in October 2017 but maintained that it was formulated so as not to apply to cases involving public order or national security issues. In view of this situation, the applicant association refrained from lodging both an appeal in cassation and an application for reopening as none of the remedies could be effective in its case.

To support this position, the GHM referred to a very recent judgment delivered in September 2019 by the Court of First Instance of Serres, which ordered the dissolution of the association “Brotherhood of the Serres Natives: Cyril and Methodius”, registered in 2017, following a request from the Prosecutor of Serres. The court held that the aim of the association to preserve the “mother tongue” did not refer to Greek but to “Macedonian”, whereas, according to the court, the mother tongue of the “Serres natives” is Greek. Thus, the aim pursued by the association was neither defined nor clear and created confusion that could not guarantee the preservation of the peaceful coexistence of the population of the region and was therefore contrary to public order.

The latest examination of the Committee of Ministers (1362nd meeting, 3-5 December 2019) pointed out the lack of progress in adapting the case law of the Greek Courts to the requirements of the Convention, recently confirmed also by the dissolution by a national court in September 2019 of another association in Serres. The Committee invited the authorities to keep them informed of any developments in Greek case-law of relevance to the present case and in particular the interpretation of Article 758 of the Code of Civil Procedure currently pending before the Court of Cassation.

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Tsigaras v Greece

This group of cases concerns violations of the applicants’ property rights due to the excessive individual burden they had to bear following the determination by domestic courts (between 2004 and 2018) of the compensation they were entitled to for the expropriation of their land in the context of highway construction works (violations of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1).

An updated action report received on 30 March 2023 (DH-DD(2023)406).Action report (regarding Tsigaras) was submitted on dated 25 August 2020. An assessment was sent to the authorities on 26 March 2021.

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Koutsokostas v Greece

This case concerns a violation of the applicants’ right to property on account of the domestic courts’ refusal to examine the applicants’ action seeking payment of compensation for the expropriation of their land between 2003 and 2012 at the same time as assessing the final amount payable (violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1).

The European Court noted that the refusal of the domestic courts, including the Court of Cassation, to consider the applicants’ action seeking to award them the compensation due and the courts’ request that the applicants lodge a new relevant application with the civil courts have violated the principle of economy and the principle of promptness as well as the principle of the single procedure which was established in 2002 by the Court in Azas. Thus, they broke the proper balance that must exist between the public interest and that of the individual (§ 49).

An overview of the national case-law shows that the problem identified in Koutsokostas persists (see for example Athens Court of Appeal 267/2020 and 104/2018). In one of the recent domestic judgments (Athens Court of Appeal 267/2020), the appeal court, while mentioning expressly the Azas principle, it goes further to reiterate the earlier established case-law that the recovery of the compensation for the expropriation cannot be examined at the same time as the assessment of the final amount payable. In other words, the appeal court underlined that the issue of enforcement of payment is dealt separately after the final decision settling the compensation. In particular it argued that the issue of the payment of compensation always falls outside the single process provided by law.

In view of the above, updated information on further measures taken or envisaged is awaited.

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Nikoloudakis v Greece

This case concerns the violation of the applicants’ right of access to a court on account of the authorities’ failure between 1998 and 2011 to give effect to civil and administrative courts’ judgments recognising the applicants’ mother as co-owner of a plot of land and ordering the local authorities in Crete to demolish the buildings erected therein and the illegal occupants to return the plot to her (violation of Article 6 § 1).

The Court noted that the demolition of the illegal buildings constituted a preamble to the return of the disputed property to the applicants because the illegal occupants lived there and the attempts of the police to evict them ended in failure. All the attempts made by the administration to find a firm that could proceed to demolition were fruitless. Also, following the prefect’s decision of 1998 no formal notice ordering one of the illegal occupants to proceed with the demolition was served on him (§55).

The Court also considered that the respondent State must ensure, by appropriate measures, that the impugned domestic judgments are executed without delay (§64).

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Bekir-Ousta and others v Greece

This case concerns violations of the right to freedom of association (Article 11) due to the domestic courts’ rulings not to register associations. The European Court noted that the contested measure relied on a mere suspicion about the true intentions of the founders of the association and the actions that it might have led to once it had started functioning. Moreover, the Court considered that even assuming that the true aim of the association was to promote the idea that an ethnic minority existed in Greece, this could not in itself be considered a threat to a democratic society. The Court noted in this respect that nothing in the association’s statute suggested that its members were advocating the use of violence or anti-democratic or anti-constitutional means. The Court recalled that Greek legislation (Article 12 of the Constitution and Article 81 of the Civil Code) did not set up a system of preventive control for the establishment of non-profit associations. It also noted that the domestic courts could order the dissolution of any association if it subsequently pursued an aim different to that stated in its statute, or if its functioning proved to be contrary to public order. Consequently, it concluded that the impugned measure was disproportionate to the aim pursued.

In its last examination (1468th CM-DH meeting, 5-7 June 2023), the Committee of Minister urged the authorities to consider without further delay all possible avenues in order to implement fully and effectively the European Court’s judgments and prevent recurrence of similar violations. It reiterated the call to the authorities to consider amending the system concerning the registration of associations, in line with the European Court’s case-law and the 2014 Venice Commission and OSCE Joint Guidelines on Freedom of Association, which favour the registration of associations without any prior control of their legality, when domestic law provides for clauses allowing the monitoring of their activity afterwards.

The examination of these cases will be resumed at the Committee’s 1483rd meeting (December 2023) (DH).

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