Greece: International Arbitration Comparative Guide

Last Updated: 11 September 2019
Article by Manolis Perakis
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1 Legal framework

1.1 What is the relevant legislation on arbitration in your jurisdiction? Are there any significant limitations on the scope of the statutory regime – for example, does it govern oral arbitration agreements?

Parties involved in international commercial arbitration proceedings in Greece can apply Law 2735/1999, which incorporates (with minor amendments) the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration.

Moreover, domestic arbitration and international disputes of a non-commercial nature are governed by Articles 867 to 903 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which also apply directly or indirectly to international commercial arbitration if an issue is not specifically governed by Law 2735/1999 and vice versa.

1.2 Does this legislation differentiate between domestic arbitration and international arbitration? If so, how is each defined?

Yes. Law 2735/1999 provides that an arbitration is considered to be ‘international' if:

  • the registered seats of the parties are in different countries at the time the arbitration agreement is concluded;
  • the location of the arbitration or the place where the contractual obligations should be performed is in a different country from that in which the parties have their registered seats; or
  • the parties have expressly agreed that the subject matter of the arbitration agreement is connected to several countries.

Considering the above, the Hellenic jurisdiction fulfils international arbitration standards.

1.3 Is the arbitration legislation in your jurisdiction based on the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration?

Yes (see question 1.1).

1.4 Are all provisions of the legislation in your jurisdiction mandatory?

Most of the legislative provisions afford the parties wide discretion. Nevertheless, there are mandatory rules which cannot be deviated from - namely, those that:

  • relate to the arbitrability of disputes; and
  • are considered to implement public policy provisions.

Moreover, the Code of Civil Procedure and Law 2735/1999 include mandatory judicial prerequisites - namely:

  • equal treatment of the parties;
  • the opportunity for each party to fully present its case;
  • the rights of defence; and
  • the rules of due process.

1.5 Are there any current plans to amend the arbitration legislation in your jurisdiction?

Not at the moment.

1.6 Is your jurisdiction a signatory to the New York Convention? If so, have any reservations been made?

The New York Convention (1958) was signed and ratified by Greece (with two reservations) through the adoption of Decree-Law 4220/1961 and entered into force in October 1962.

The two reservations are as follows:

  • Greece will apply the convention only to disputes that arise from legal relationships, whether contractual or not, which are considered ‘commercial' under Greek law; and
  • Greece will apply the convention only to the recognition and enforcement of awards rendered in the territory of another contracting state.

1.7 Is your jurisdiction a signatory to any other treaties relevant to arbitration?

Greece is a signatory to the following treaties relevant to arbitration:

  • the Geneva Protocol on Arbitration Clauses (1923);
  • the Geneva Convention on the Execution of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1927);
  • the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (1966);
  • various multilateral investment treaties, such as the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization (1994) and the Energy Charter Treaty (1994); and
  • a series of several bilateral investment treaties.

2 Arbitrability and restrictions on arbitration

2.1 How is it determined whether a dispute is arbitrable in your jurisdiction?

According to Greek law (see mainly Article 867 of the Greek Code of Civil Procedure), any private law disputes between individuals or state entities (acting as fiscus) can be referred to arbitration. Thus, the following cases cannot be referred to arbitration:

  • criminal cases;
  • administrative disputes that fall within the competence of the Council of State as specified in Articles 94 and 95 of the Greek Constitution;
  • family disputes (eg, relations between relatives);
  • labour disputes (except for collective bargaining disputes); and
  • tax disputes.

2.2 Are there any restrictions on the choice of seat of arbitration for certain disputes?

Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, the arbitrators will choose the seat of arbitration, which, according to Law 2735/1999, must be in Greece.

3 Arbitration agreement

3.1 What are the validity requirements for an arbitration agreement in your jurisdiction?

The parties select the substantive law that will govern their legal relationship, and under which the validity and scope of an arbitration agreement are determined.

According to the requirements set by law, an arbitration agreement must be in writing. However, the lack of written form can be remedied if all parties involved participate in the arbitration proceedings without reservation. Furthermore, an arbitration agreement is valid if it is mentioned in a document communicated by one party to the other, or to both parties by a third party, and no recipient raises any objections within a reasonable period.

Finally, any authorisation granted to a representative in order to validly enter into an arbitration agreement must also be in writing.

3.2 Are there any provisions of legislation or any other legal sources in your jurisdiction concerning the separability of arbitration agreements?

According to Greek law, the arbitration agreement is treated as a standalone, independent agreement. Consequently, it may be considered valid even if the rest of the contract is deemed invalid.

3.3 Are there provisions on the seat and/or language of the arbitration if there is no agreement between the parties?

Law 2735/1999 provides that, unless the parties have agreed otherwise, the arbitral tribunal will determine the seat and the language of the arbitration.

4 Objections to jurisdiction

4.1 When must a party raise an objection to the jurisdiction of the tribunal and how can this objection be raised?

In international commercial arbitration, the parties cannot validly restrict or eliminate the power of the arbitral tribunal to rule on an objection to its jurisdiction in a preliminary award or the final award. Therefore, before arbitration commences (ie, before a request for arbitration is received), any party can file a motion for the court to rule on the existence and validity of the arbitration agreement. To hear the case, a Greek court must have jurisdiction over the dispute.

4.2 Can a tribunal rule on its own jurisdiction?

In domestic arbitration and international disputes of a non-commercial nature, the tribunal can rule on its own jurisdiction, unless the parties have agreed otherwise.

4.3 Can a party apply to the courts of the seat for a ruling on the jurisdiction of the tribunal? In what circumstances?

Once a case has been filed and arbitration has commenced, no challenges to the tribunal's jurisdiction before a court are allowed until the arbitral award has been rendered.

5 The parties

5.1 Are there any restrictions on who can be a party to an arbitration agreement?

The validity and scope of an arbitration agreement, as well as the authority of the parties to enter into it, are determined according to the substantive law selected by the parties to govern their legal relationship. Under Greek law, the parties that enter into an arbitration agreement must be capable of concluding it (subjective arbitrability).

5.2 Are the parties under any duties in relation to the arbitration?

In all arbitrations, including international commercial arbitrations, public order rules have mandatory application. These mainly concern the fundamental principles of fair trial and therefore guarantee equal treatment of the parties, adversarial procedure and due process. These public policy provisions cannot be excluded by virtue of an arbitration agreement.

More specifically, both the Greek Code of Civil Procedure and Law 2735/1999 provide mandatory judicial prerequisites - namely:

  • equal treatment of the parties;
  • the opportunity for each party to fully present its case;
  • the rights of defence; and
  • due process.

5.3 Are there any provisions of law which deal with multi-party disputes?

No express provision allows or prohibits multi-party disputes. They are accepted and recognised by the Greek courts.

6 Applicable law issues

6.1 How is the law of the arbitration agreement determined in your jurisdiction?

The applicable law of the arbitration is selected by the parties to the dispute. In the absence of such a choice, the following shall apply:

  • In domestic arbitration and international disputes of a non-commercial nature, the tribunal will apply the substantive provisions of Greek law; and
  • In international commercial arbitration, the tribunal will apply the law which it considers applicable to the case in line with the international private law rules.

6.2 Will the tribunal uphold a party agreement as to the substantive law of the dispute? Where the substantive law is unclear, how will the tribunal determine what it should be?

Yes. In the absence of such agreement, and if the applicable substantive law is unclear, according to Law 2735/1999, the tribunal will determine this based on the contractual terms and related commercial practices, taking into account equity and fairness, provided that the parties have expressly authorised it to do so.

7 Consolidation and third parties

7.1 Does the law in your jurisdiction permit consolidation of separate arbitrations into a single arbitration proceeding? Are there any conditions which apply to consolidation?

No specific provision allows or prohibits the tribunal from consolidating separate arbitration proceedings. Therefore, the general principles of the Greek Code of Civil Procedure apply, according to which consolidation is feasible if the disputes at stake have similar legal and factual elements, and a high correlation exists between the different claims pursued through the separately initiated arbitration proceedings.

7.2 Does the law in your jurisdiction permit the joinder of additional parties to an arbitration which has already commenced?

In the absence of a relevant provision under Greek law imposing such a restriction, third parties may participate in the arbitration by submitting a joinder or a third-party notice, provided that the parties to the dispute and the tribunal have expressed their consent.

7.3 Does an arbitration agreement bind assignees or other third parties?

The tribunal cannot assume jurisdiction over parties that are not bound by the arbitration agreement, unless they have joined the arbitration proceedings or are legally linked to the contracting parties (eg, successor or assignee).

8 The tribunal

8.1 How is the tribunal appointed?

According to Law 2735/1999, which incorporates the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration, an arbitral tribunal will comprise three arbitrators, unless the parties have decided otherwise. More specifically, each party will appoint one arbitrator and these two arbitrators will appoint the third arbitrator and chair of the arbitration tribunal.

8.2 Are there any requirements as to the number or qualification of arbitrators in your jurisdiction?

According to Law 2735/1999, an arbitral tribunal will comprise three arbitrators, unless the parties have decided otherwise. Moreover, pursuant to the relevant provisions of the Greek Code of Civil Procedure, the arbitrators must have full contractual capacity and must not be deprived of their civil rights. Further requirements established by the code with regard to the appointment of members of the Greek judiciary as arbitrators are as follows:

  • Such persons can be appointed as a sole arbitrator or chair of the arbitration tribunal; and
  • Such persons must have completed at least five years' service.

8.3 Can an arbitrator be challenged in your jurisdiction? If so, on what basis? Are there any restrictions on the challenge of an arbitrator?

This depends on the nature of the arbitration.

More specifically, in international commercial arbitration, an arbitrator can be challenged either:

  • in circumstances that give rise to justifiable doubts as to his or her impartiality or independence; or
  • if he or she fails to meet the requirements agreed on by the parties through the arbitration clause.

An arbitrator may challenged by a party which appointed him or her or participated in his or her appointment only for reasons which came to that party's attention after the appointment.

Law 2735/1999 provides that the parties can agree on the process for the challenge and removal of arbitrators. If there is no such agreement, either party can file a request for the removal of an arbitrator with the tribunal within 15 days of the date on which it was notified of the tribunal's constitution or learned of any fact giving rise to the request for removal. If the removal is contested by the other party or by the arbitrator, the tribunal will decide on the request within 30 days of its filing. The party that filed the request can challenge the tribunal's decision, or the lack of a decision if 30 days have passed, before the court of first instance, whose decision is final and non-appealable (Articles 6, 12 and 13 of Law 2735/1999).

Furthermore, an arbitrator who cannot perform his or her duties due to physical or legal incapacity, or who otherwise fails to fulfil his or her functions within a reasonable period, can be disqualified by agreement of the parties or decision of the court of first instance (Article 14 of Law 2735/1999).

In domestic arbitration, the Greek Code of Civil Procedure applies. Any member of the tribunal can be revoked by agreement of both parties to the proceedings. Moreover, any member of the tribunal can be challenged if he or she does not fulfil the requirements set out by law (Articles 52 and 871 of the code). If the party challenging the appointment made or participated in the arbitrator's appointment, the challenge may be brought only on grounds which came to that party's attention after the appointment.

The motion to challenge an arbitrator is filed with the court of first instance, whose decision is final and non-appealable.

8.4 If a challenge is successful, how is the arbitrator replaced?

Under Law 2735/1999, a new arbitrator will be appointed by the same party that appointed his or her predecessor, in accordance with the applicable rules set out in the arbitration clause, or if there are no such rules, by intervention of the court of first instance.

The reasons for the replacement of an arbitrator are as follows:

  • agreement of the parties;
  • decision of the court of first instance.
  • decision of the tribunal regarding a request for the arbitrator's removal; and
  • resignation.

8.5 What duties are imposed on arbitrators? Are these all imposed by legislation?

Arbitrators must be impartial, in accordance with the principles of equal treatment of the parties and due process. They must also perform their duties in good faith, observe due diligence and render the award in compliance with the formal requirements provided by law and their commitment to issue a decision in the dispute.

8.6 What powers does an arbitrator have in relation to: (a) procedure, including evidence; (b) interim relief; (c) parties which do not comply with its orders; (d) issuing partial final awards; (e) the remedies it can grant in a final award and (f) interest?

(a) procedure, including evidence?

Unless the parties have agreed otherwise, the tribunal will freely determine the evidentiary procedure, which in practice is usually based on applicable general provisions on evidence before the state courts (in domestic arbitration) or on specialised sets of rules (in international arbitration). It is prohibited for parties to testify as witnesses. Experts are appointed by the tribunal. Otherwise, all forms and means of evidence listed in the Greek Code of Civil Procedure are also available in arbitration under the terms set out in the relevant provisions. In international arbitration, the default rules provide that the tribunal shall determine the admissibility, relevance, materiality and weight of any evidence.

(b) interim relief?

Pursuant to the – controversial and much criticised – provisions of Articles 685 and 889 of the Greek Code of Civil Procedure, the tribunal lacks the power to order or amend interim measures in domestic arbitration. This power belongs to the state courts, either before or after the commencement of arbitration.

The state courts also have the power to order interim measures in international arbitration, either before or after the commencement of arbitration; but this power is concurrent with the tribunal's power to order interim measures.

(c) parties which do not comply with its orders?

In domestic arbitration the tribunal does not have the power to sanction non-compliance with its orders. However, in international arbitration any such behaviour can be indirectly sanctioned by taking it into account when allocating the costs.

(d) issuing partial final awards?

Greek arbitration law does not classify awards.

(e) the remedies it can grant in a final award?

Arbitral tribunals seated in Greece can provide the range of remedies as determined in the applicable substantive law. If the applicable substantive law is that of another state, tribunals seated in Greece may not grant remedies which violate principles of Greek public policy as defined in Article 33 of the Greek Civil Code. In such case the remedy granted may be annulled by the state courts.

(f) interest?

Whether interest can be awarded and at what rate are issues determined by the applicable substantive law and the underlying contract, as long as it does not exceed the mandatory maximum provided by Greek law.

8.7 How may a tribunal seated in your jurisdiction proceed if a party does not participate in the arbitration?

Should a respondent which has been duly notified under the applicable provisions refuse or unjustifiably fail to participate in an international commercial arbitration, the proceedings continue ex parte (Article 25 of Law 2735/1999). The parties can agree otherwise.

A party's absence from the proceedings is not interpreted as a silent admission or denial of the claims. Each party still bears the burden of proving its allegations before the tribunal.

8.8 Are arbitrators immune from liability?

With regard to civil liability, the liability of arbitrators is limited to gross negligence and intentional acts (Article 881 of the Greek Code of Civil Procedure). An arbitrator may also face criminal liability for bribery (Article 237 of the Greek Penal Code).

9 The role of the court during an arbitration

9.1 Will the court in your jurisdiction stay proceedings and refer parties to arbitration if there is an arbitration agreement?

Yes, provided that one of the parties demands it.

9.2 Does the court in your jurisdiction have any powers in relation to an arbitration seated in your jurisdiction and/or seated outside your jurisdiction? What are these powers? Under what conditions are these powers exercised?

Domestic courts are involved in the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards according to the relevant international treaties, in matters regarding the tribunal and in matters related to the challenge of an award (see question 10.1).

9.3 Can the parties exclude the court's powers by agreement?

The court's powers which are established by law cannot be excluded by agreement of the parties.

10 Costs

10.1 How will the tribunal approach the issue of costs?

Reimbursement of fees and costs incurred may be subject to the arbitration agreement. In the absence of agreement between the parties, the tribunal will decide based on:

  • the claims;
  • the duration and complexity of the proceedings;
  • the evidence presented; and
  • the outcome.

Hence, it may order each party to bear its own costs, divide the costs proportionally or apply the ‘loser pays' rule.

10.2 Are there any restrictions on what the parties can agree in terms of costs in an arbitration seated in your jurisdiction?

Greek legislation imposes no specific restrictions in this regard, but the general principles of the law of contracts apply.

11 Funding

11.1 Is third-party funding permitted for arbitrations seated in your jurisdiction?

There is no regulatory framework for third-party funding in Greece, which means that - taking into account the principle of freedom of contract (Article 361 of the Greek Civil Code) - this cannot be considered as prohibited.

12 Award

12.1 What procedural and substantive requirements must be met by an award?

Law 2735/1999 (Article 31) provides that unless the parties have agreed otherwise, a valid and enforceable award in international commercial arbitration in Greece must:

  • be in writing;
  • be signed by the arbitrators; and
  • state its date, the place of the arbitration and the grounds for the ruling.

The Greek Code of Civil Procedure (Article 892) establishes similar requirements for awards in domestic arbitration.

Moreover, in both types of arbitration (Article 32(5) of Law 2735/1999 and Article 893 of the Greek Code of Civil Procedure), an original copy of the award must be delivered to each party; and unless the parties have agreed otherwise, the tribunal must file the original award with the secretariat of the court of first instance.

12.2 Must the award be produced within a certain timeframe?

Greek law specifies no timeframe within which an award must be issued, although the parties are free to establish such a timeframe by agreement.

13 Enforcement of awards

13.1 Are awards enforced in your jurisdiction? Under what procedure?

As long as an arbitral award has been legally issued, it is also enforceable according to Greek legislation. With regard to the enforcement procedure, the New York Convention is widely considered to be the key text for the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards in Greece; while Greece is also a party to the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States and the award enforcement provisions contained therein. In the case of domestic arbitration, Article 904 of the Greek Code of Civil Procedure clearly states that arbitral awards are enforceable titles and are enforced according to the procedure set out in Articles 904 and following.

14 Grounds for challenging an award

14.1 What are the grounds on which an award can be challenged, appealed or otherwise set aside in your jurisdiction?

In both international arbitration (Article 34 of Law 2735/1999) and domestic arbitration (Article 895 of the Greek Code of Civil Procedure), an arbitral award cannot be appealed, although it can be challenged for reasons of law by means of a court application filed within three months of service of the award. The grounds for setting aside an award are exhaustively enumerated in the relevant law provisions as follows:

  • The arbitration agreement or clause was not valid under the law applicable in the arbitration proceedings;
  • The party against which enforcement of the award is sought was not duly notified of the appointment of the arbitrators or the arbitration, and it was thus impossible for it to legally participate in the proceedings;
  • The dispute was not arbitrable according to law or the arbitration agreement;
  • The proceedings or the constitution of the tribunal violated the arbitration agreement or the applicable law; or
  • The arbitral award is not yet enforceable or has been set aside or suspended by an authority with jurisdiction in the country under the law of which the award was issued.

The parties may agree to have recourse against the award before another arbitral tribunal.

14.2 Are there are any time limits and/or other requirements to bring a challenge?

In international commercial arbitration, the application to set aside an award must be made within three months of the date of receipt of the award by the challenging party. Furthermore, unless the parties have agreed otherwise, either party may request the tribunal to correct formal errors in the award or interpret the award within 30 days of its delivery; the tribunal must make the necessary corrections or interpretation within 30 days of receipt of this request, unless it deems it necessary to extend this timeframe (Article 33 of Law 2537/1999). In any case, the tribunal may correct ex officio any formal error in the award within 30 days of its issuance.

In domestic arbitration, the application to set aside an award must likewise be made within three months of service of the award (Article 899 of the Greek Code of Civil Procedure), and Article 894 provides similar options regarding the request for correction or interpretation of the award. Nevertheless, in domestic arbitration this request may be submitted only by a party which is a signatory to the arbitration agreement, and no timeframe is specified with respect to either the submission of the request or the examination of such request by the tribunal.

14.3 Are parties permitted to exclude any rights of challenge or appeal?

According to Greek law, the parties cannot exclude the rights of challenge as granted by law (see question 10.1).

15 Confidentiality

15.1 Is arbitration seated in your jurisdiction confidential? Is a duty of confidentiality found in the arbitration legislation?

There is no specific provision in Greek law concerning the issue of confidentiality in arbitration. However, in practice, the confidentiality and secrecy of hearings are guaranteed and submissions, notes, evidence and awards are not, in principle, accessible to third parties. In any case, the parties can ensure confidentiality at every step of the proceedings by including such a clause in the arbitration agreement or in the terms of reference.

The filing of the original of the award with the competent court of first instance (see question 9.1) does not make this award publicly available.

15.2 Are there any exceptions to confidentiality?

Greek law provides no specific exceptions to confidentiality.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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