2nd Symposium of the Procedural Law Unit of the Law School of the University of Nicosia: “Justice in Cyprus at a critical crossroads”

Valuable conclusions, suggestions and solutions were presented at the 2nd Symposium of the Procedural Law Unit of the Law School of the University of Nicosia

It was with great interest that the legal world attended the 2nd Symposium of the Procedural Law Unit of the Law School of the University of Nicosia on “European Civil Procedure after Brexit: delays and the need for acceleration, technology in justice and Alternative Dispute Resolution”.

A key conclusion of the Symposium is that there remains an urgent need for judicial reform in Cyprus, as in addition to the daily operational problems faced by the stakeholders, its rapid and proper administration is one of the foundations of any well-governed state.  

The main topics of the Symposium were, among others, the recent reforms in civil justice in Cyprus, new technologies and their integration into civil procedure, alternative dispute resolution (ADRs), cross-border disputes in the EU as well as the impact caused by Brexit on procedural law and arbitration issues.

In her address, the Minister of Justice and Public Order,Stefi Drakou, described 2022 as a landmark year for justice as, as she said, important bills were passed by an overwhelming majority, which paved the way for reform, which had been at a standstill for many years. He revealed that “in January the study on the independent court service with exclusive jurisdiction over the administration of the Courts is delivered, a service that will be staffed with the appropriate specialties required by the Administration of organizations of such magnitude that our Judges can focus on their judicial duties”.

The President of the House Standing Committee on Legal Affairs, Nikos Tornaritis, in his own greeting noted that “everyone admits, in Cyprus, that Justice is collapsing, because Justice that is taking a long time to be administered is obviously not Justice”. He then listed the efforts made by the House Committee on Legal Affairs over the past year. As he said, these efforts concern the adoption of the reform at the highest level of the Judiciary, the creation of a Commercial Court and a Naval Court, in the first four bills on the reform of family law, the regulations on family mediation, as well as on the efforts to pass legislation made in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and Public Order concerning the “small claim course” ” (small claims courts). Recognizing the urgent need for digital upgrading, he referred to the efforts beingmade to introduce e-justice and i-justice in justice.” 

Welcoming the Symposium, Dr. Christos Clerides, President of the Cyprus Bar Association, referred to the many issues facing the Judiciary in Cyprus by analyzing the positions and recommendations of the Cyprus Bar Association. As he commented characteristically, “the reform of the Judiciary has a long way to go even with regret as a Pancyprian Bar Association we learned of the delay of the reform. But it will definitely be a very positive step when its practical implementation begins.”

The Commissioner for Legislation, Louisa Christodoulidou Zannetou, commented that “the speedy and correct administration of Justice is an inalienable fundamental right of the governed in the context of the functioning of a state structure governed by the principles and values of the Rule of Law”. At the same time, she expressed her certainty that “the society will embrace the introduction of technology in the courts, but also in the alternative ways of resolving disputes, which have so much to offer, significantly enhancing the role and work of justice.” 

Moreover, the Director of Reform and Training of the Supreme Court, George Erotokritou, referred to the dozens of justice reform projects implemented in recent years, saying that several changes are still in their infancy but at least things have begun to change. “Delays of 10-15 years are no longer acceptable. We cannot accept to always be last or penultimate in international comparative indicators. We have to regain our former glory”, he commented characteristically.

Finally, the Dean of the Law School of the University of Nicosia, Professor Achilleas Emilianides, expressed the opinion that the Conference is taking place in one of the worst moments of Cypriot justice, “which was the blow that the Supreme Court threw at the Rule of Law through the adoption and immediate application of the special regulations for late cases”. He expressed the hope that the conference and its findings will contribute to a change of course by saying that the most important thing is to link reforms to the execution of decisions. “What is the strength of the civil procedure system is that the State provides its authority to enforce decisions. If judgments are issued and remain unenforceable, as is the case in Cyprus, then justice is exercised by the underworld. That’s the reality whether we like it or not,” he noted.

Among the speakers were Gilles Cuniberti, Professor of Comparative Law and Private International Law at the University of Luxembourg, Adamantia Manta, from the Directorate General for Structural Reform Support of the European Commission and Tigran Karapetyan, Head of Transversal Challenges and Multilateral Projects Task Force of the European Council. Professors of law schools and lawyers from Cyprus and abroad also participated. It is worth mentioning that the Symposium was supported by both law firms in Cyprus and other institutions. 

What citizens think

During the Symposium, findings of quantitative research on “The Civil Justice System in Cyprus” were presented and analyzed, conducted by HMR. Aim of the Research was to analyze the perception of citizens about the effectiveness of the system and its main factors (judges, courts, lawyers, Legal Service).

The research revealed, among other things, the following interesting conclusions:

  • 75% of citizens are not satisfied with the justice system in Cyprus.
  • 53% of citizens are not satisfied with the quality of legal services they happened to receive, while 47% say they are satisfied.
  • 60% disagree with the statement that “Cypriot courts are impartial” and 40% agree.
  • 49% of citizens believe that the legal service is doing little or no way in line with its tasks, as opposed to 46% who believe that it is very responsive.

The general coordination of the Symposium, which was co-organized with the Cyprus Bar Association, was held by Dr. Anna Plevri and Dr. Nikolas Kyriakides. The Symposium was held in memory of Professor Konstantinos Kerameus.

You can find the recording of the Symposium below: