“It is our great expectation to succeed in strengthening the institution of mediation in Greece. Because if this institution could work effectively, as in many European countries, it would help a lot to speed up the administration of justice. Too many cases could be resolved out of court”, pointed out the Minister of Justice George Floridisin an event for “Mediation Day”, organized by the Organization for the Promotion of Dispute Resolution Methods (OPEMED), in collaboration with the Thessaloniki Bar Association (DSTH), the Association of Greek Industries (SBE) and the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce & Industry, under under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice.

As the minister revealed, a large investigation is underway and a report is being drawn up by him Organization for the Promotion of Dispute Resolution Methods (OPEMED) which “will be handed over to the Ministry of Justice in six months to be able to organize the new framework in Greece and we aspire that from the autumn when we legislate it, Greece will enter a new era in terms of this sector, so we expect a lot. First of all, the study and research that is being done now will lead to a conclusion that will have the best international practices. In other words, we will see what good is happening in the world in this field”.

It may be that in the last four years, with the final legislation on mediation, many cases have been resolved out of court, however, as the Minister of Justice pointed out, “we are still far behind. We need to greatly increase the number of cases settled out of court. So that we can get closer to a European average and thus things will be able to become even better in justice”.

Mr. Floridis, referring to the factors that work negatively in the increase of cases that are resolved by mediation, said that: “The issue of out-of-court dispute resolution has so far been met with the relative refusal of the legal profession. We have to convince the lawyers to love the out-of-court way of resolving cases, because they are the main factors for this institution to work and I think we are on the right track there as well”.

Tsiaras: 10% of cases are resolved through mediation

The event was also attended by the former Minister of Justice, Kostas Tsiaras, who was awarded for his work and underlined that, “we are all very happy, because from December 2019 onwards, mediation is a reality in Greece. We all know its value and its role which obviously does not replace Justice but uncongests Justice from a very large volume of cases and enables many citizens, in an alternative way, to resolve their disputes. Based on the statistics we have, about 10% of cases are resolved through mediation to date, and if we take into account the long period that the pandemic has prevented us from taking the necessary steps, I think we have gone through a fairly large and significant part of a route that should bring us to another social reality”.

“Somehow there needs to be a publicity program for mediation and certainly for citizens to understand that it is much easier and much simpler, instead of struggling for years, based on what happens in the courts, to choose a much more modern, much more comfortable, much more economical, much more peaceful way of resolving their differences and I think that is essentially the mark that Greece is now giving, in an effort that pan-European and global seems to have taken its own steps”, noted Mr. Tsiaras.

The chairman of the Organization for the Promotion of Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods (OPEMED), chairman of the Personal Data Protection Authority, Konstantinos Menoudakos, explained that, “mediation is important for many reasons, firstly, because it is a friendly settlement. Disputes are resolved without going to court, which means some years of suffering. It saves money and the courts are also lightened, we know what a burden they have. There are already encouraging signs.”

In 2024, we believe mediation cases will triple

The mediation law has been in effect for 4 years, clarified the President of the First Instance Court of Thessaloniki, President of the Three-Member Board of Directors of the First Instance Court of Thessaloniki, Petros Alikakos, and referring to the statistics of these years, he said: “At the beginning of 2020, in the First Instance Court of Thessaloniki, there were very few cases that ended with successful mediation practice. In 2021 and 2022 the cases have now increased by leaps and bounds in real numbers. We are talking about 2022, about 100 cases of family interest were resolved with a mediation record, another 30 land related, we had two labor cases that were resolved with mediation, one lease case and 3-4 cases of injunctions. In 2023 the numbers are the same and already in the first quarter of 2024 we believe that these will triple by the end of the year, so the “seed has fallen”. Statistics show that the world is beginning to embrace mediation. Family law cases are the flagship, followed by others. This mentality will eventually become entrenched.”

“Mediation is extremely important, especially in the context of justice system reform. Mediation can play an important role as it is an institution that can help speed up justice”, noted the president of the Association of Greek Industries (SBE) Loukia Sarantis and added that, “it is certain that in the extroversion of our country, the acceleration of justice and the quality of justice administration, plays a very important role. This institution must move forward and SBE is here to help in this direction.”

“The truth is that the issue of delay in justice will not be solved with a magic wand. Mediation is a first tool to be able to overcome these rhythms as much as possible, especially in some categories of cases which also have highly sensitive social elements, such as, for example, family disputes. From there we believe in the institution of mediation not only for the purpose of speeding up, but precisely because it tries to teach us all how we can resolve our differences without tension, without conflict, at a time when I think society needs it to be able to sit peacefully at a table and agree that it is the best for everyone”, pointed out the president of the Thessaloniki Bar Association (DSTH) Dimitrios Finokaliotis.

For her part, Zoi Yiannopoulou, a lawyer from Thessaloniki, DN, mediator, trainer of mediators IKDTH, Director of the European Dispute Resolution Institute Zoi Yiannopoulou, emphasized that, “today we celebrate the day of mediation. We have very positive developments. The institutionalization of the obligation led the legal world as well as the citizens to a contact with the institution, although mandatory, but with very positive results. Family cases are 80% successful, that is, they are closed in favor of the children and the family, and after the mandatory initial session, we have a very high percentage of citizens who finally choose to resolve their disputes through mediation.”

The 1st Vice President of the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ΕέΤΥ) Emmanuel Vlachogiannis, underlined that, “today we hosted the event that commemorates the day of mediation throughout Greece. It is important that this event takes place at our Chamber, which as you know was from the beginning in the founding group of the Mediator Training Institute in Thessaloniki. Mediation, therefore, as an alternative way of providing Justice, complements it in the best possible way, achieves the balancing of the interests of the parties, whenever they are in a conflict situation and is another alternative solution that allows for faster adjudication, pacification in some way of the parties, its fastest award”.