Starting an arbitration proceeding
What is needed to commence arbitration?
Pursuant to Law 2735/1999, arbitral proceedings commence on the date of receipt of the request for by the respondent, unless otherwise agreed by the parties. If the request for arbitration also states the remedy sought and facts supporting the claims, the respondent should submit its defence within 30 days of receipt of the request for arbitration.
The Code of Civil Procedure provides no mechanism as to the commencement of the arbitral proceedings. However, it is common practice for the claimant to notify the respondent of its request for arbitration, stating the name and details of its appointed arbitrator. If any of the parties is a legal entity, a specific authorisation by means of a board resolution is required before entering into the arbitration agreement. Lack of such authorisation will render an arbitration agreement invalid.
Should the parties refer the dispute to institutional arbitration, the commencement of arbitral proceedings will be determined on the basis of the rules that the relevant institution applies to the arbitral proceedings.
Are there any limitation periods for the commencement of arbitration?
The right to arbitrate per se is not subject to limitation under the Code of Civil Procedure or Law 2735/1999.
A party’s right to resort to arbitration and the period within which such recourse should be made are determined by the substantive law of the case. Where Greek law applies, typical statutory limitation periods apply – namely:
- five years for claims arising from commercial relations;
- twenty years for claims arising from contracts; and
- five years for tort claims.
However, Greek law stipulates various exceptions from the above rules.
- The filing of a request for arbitration interrupts the substantive limitation period.
Are there any procedural rules that arbitrators must follow?
Law 2735/1999 provides that parties can agree on the rules of procedure to be followed by the arbitral tribunal while conducting the proceedings. If the parties have not reached such an agreement, the arbitral tribunal will determine:
- the rules and steps of the procedure;
- the place and language of the arbitration;
- whether there will be oral hearings or arbitral proceedings conducted on the basis of documents; and
- the appointment of expert witnesses.
In any event, the parties should be treated equally and given the opportunity to present their case fully.
The Code of Civil Procedure provides that the parties should:
- have equal rights and obligations;
- receive equal treatment; and
- be properly invited to present their arguments and defence before the tribunal.
Are dissenting opinions permitted under the law of your jurisdiction?
Both domestic and international arbitrations do not require a unanimous vote with respect to decisions. The latter are made by a majority of all members of the arbitration panel. Lacking a majority, the presiding arbitrator has the casting vote, unless otherwise agreed by the parties. Dissenting opinions are implicitly permitted in both domestic and international commercial arbitration.
Can local courts intervene in proceedings?
Local courts can intervene in arbitral proceedings on a party’s or the arbitral tribunal’s request. More specifically, under the Code of Civil Procedure and Law 2735/1999, the single-member first-instance court can be called on to rule or assist in the appointment, challenge and replacement of arbitrators for the purposes of hearing evidence and granting interim measures. Parties can also resort to the courts for preliminary relief in respect of the subject matter of the dispute, before or after the arbitration’s commencement.
Can the local courts assist in choosing arbitrators?
According to the Code of Civil Procedure and Law 2735/1999, the single-member first-instance court will assist parties in choosing the members of the arbitral tribunal following a request by the parties.
What is the applicable law (and prevailing practice) where a respondent fails to participate in an arbitration? Can the courts compel parties to arbitrate? Can they issue subpoenas to third parties?
If a party is called to participate and fails to do so, the arbitration will take place in the party’s absence.
If one party refuses to participate in the arbitral proceedings, the other party can file an application before the first-instance court requesting that it take the necessary measures, unless the arbitration agreement provides otherwise.
The Code of Civil Procedure warrants the advancement of arbitration proceedings in cases where defendants are unwilling to participate. The claimant can request that the single-member first-instance court take the necessary measures to secure the appointment of the arbitrators and commence arbitration.
The Greek courts have no jurisdiction to hear a dispute that is subject to a valid arbitration agreement. If proceedings are initiated by a party before a court in breach of an arbitration agreement, the court will refer the case to arbitration only if the other party raises an objection to the court’s jurisdiction by invoking the arbitration agreement at the first court hearing.
The Greek courts can order measures, but only against the parties to an arbitration agreement. Subpoenas to third parties can be issued only under specific circumstances.
In what instances can third parties be bound by an arbitration agreement or award?
The arbitral tribunal cannot assume jurisdiction over third parties which are not parties to the arbitration agreement unless they have been joined to the arbitration proceedings, as arbitration is primarily a contractual method for the settlement of disputes and, in principle, only signatories or parties which have been bound by a written consent are bound by an arbitration agreement.
Nevertheless, the sole category of third parties to be bound includes those bound by the res judicata of a court decision.
Instances where third parties are bound by an arbitration agreement include:
- succession of a natural person;
- merger of a company;
- assumption of debt;
- guarantee; and
- subrogation of an insurer.
The question of whether a third party should be bound by an arbitration agreement should strictly be examined from both sides: can the party be sued and can the same party resort to arbitration?
Default language and seat
Unless agreed by the parties, what is the default language and location for arbitrations?
Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, arbitrators will choose the default language and location for arbitrations. According to Law 2735/1999, the seat of arbitration must be in Greece.
How is evidence obtained by the tribunal?
Unless the parties to an arbitration agreement have agreed otherwise, the arbitral tribunal will establish the rules for the collection and submission of evidence at the pleading stage and at the hearing in arbitral proceedings in Greece.
The International Bar Association (IBA) Rules on the Taking of Evidence in International Arbitration can be used as a guidance mechanism for arbitrators. Further, the arbitral tribunal can request the assistance of local courts in the gathering of evidence. The court can satisfy the request within its jurisdiction and according to the Code of Civil Procedure’s rules of evidence. The court in its capacity as arbitrator or the magistrates’ court, following a request by the arbitrators, can order compulsory measures for the collection of evidence.
What kinds of evidence are acceptable?
In domestic arbitration, the burden and standard of proof are determined by the type of evidentiary procedure to be followed by the tribunal. With respect to witnesses and experts, the civil law tradition is followed – that is, parties cannot testify as witnesses and experts are appointed by the tribunal. The means of evidence provided in the Code of Civil Procedure are also available in arbitration (ie, confession, inspection, expert reports, witness testimony, examination of parties, party oath, documentary evidence and presumptions). Summary or injunction proceedings are usually preferred, which is generally indulgent in the admissibility of evidence.
In international arbitration, the default rules provide that the tribunal will determine the admissibility, relevance, materiality and weight of any evidence. Further, experts are appointed by the tribunal.
Is confidentiality ensured?
Greek law is silent on the issue of confidentiality as neither the Code of Civil Procedure nor Law 2735/1999 expressly provides therefor. However, the private nature of arbitration tends to favour both confidentiality and the secrecy of hearings, submissions, notes, evidence and awards, which, in principle, are not accessible to third parties. If the parties wish to secure confidentiality, it is advisable to include a confidentiality clause in the arbitration agreement.
If an arbitral award is to be enforced in Greece, the sole arbitrator or the arbitrator designated by a multi-member tribunal must file an original copy of the award with the secretariat of the single-member first-instance court of the place of arbitration unless the parties have agreed otherwise. This filed award is not publicly available.
In any event, the data protection law applies. Any person or entity without a lawful interest cannot request a copy of the award by the single-member first-instance court – even after the award’s publication.
Can information in arbitral proceedings be disclosed in subsequent proceedings?
Arbitral proceedings in Greece are not publicly accessible, unless the parties have agreed otherwise. Consequently, no information regarding arbitral proceedings can be disclosed in subsequent proceedings without the parties’ consent. Arbitral proceedings in Greece are not publicly accessible, unless the parties have agreed otherwise. Consequently, no information regarding arbitral proceedings can be disclosed in subsequent proceedings without the parties’ consent.
What ethical codes and other professional standards, if any, apply to counsel and arbitrators conducting proceedings in your jurisdiction?
Although the law provides an ethical code for mediators in Greece, this is not the case for arbitrators. In permanent arbitrations administered and conducted on an institutional basis in Greece, individual codes of conduct regarding the behaviour of arbitrators will be implemented. The Lawyers’ Code of Ethics applies to counsel and arbitrators who are licensed as attorneys at law in Greece. In case of arbitrators who are not attorneys at law, the relevant professional standards apply.
The IBA Rules of Ethics for International Arbitrators, though not binding, can serve as guidance regarding the appropriate behaviour of an arbitrator.
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