By Christos Iliopoulos, contributing editor
A decision issued by a court in any country of the world can be implemented in Greece, provided it is officially translated in Greek and it satisfies the basic conditions of the law. A foreign judgment from a country outside the European Union (EU) must be obtained from the court, which issued it, in a certified and official form and in its most detailed version. Certificates (like divorce certificates) or short versions of the ruling or judgment may not be accepted by the court or the administration in Greece. The judgment must also have the Apostille stamp (Convention of the Hague of 5 October 1961) or, for the countries which have not adhered to this Convention, it must be certified by the Greek Consulate of that foreign country where the judgment has been issued.
The translation of the foreign judgment in Greek can be done either by a translator affiliated with the Greek Consulate, or by the Translations Office of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens, or by a lawyer in Greece who speaks the language of the foreign judgment. That last option is possibly the most preferable since a lawyer in Greece can interpret the text in a way most understood by judges and jurists in Greece.
The court ruling from the third country (non-EU) must be filed before a Greek court, usually in Athens, for recognition and legal validation into the Greek legal order. The case will not be tried again on its merits. The Greek court will merely examine whether the foreign judgment has been issued by the proper court according to the rules of private international law. In other words, it will examine whether the foreign court had jurisdiction to try the case and issue the decision. It will also examine whether the fundamental rules of justice and due process have been observed, whether the defendant or respondent was properly served with the legal action or petition of the plaintiff/petitioner and whether both parties were allowed the chance to be represented by an attorney or legal counsel or whether they legally waived such right.
The foreign court decision must also be final according to the law of the country where it was issued, meaning that the appeal time limit has passed or that an appeal was filed and a decision on the appeal was issued. The fact that no appeal or other challenge is no more available in the foreign country must be proven either by the text of the foreign judgment itself, or by a separate document, certificate or letter of the judge or the clerk of the foreign court, stating that the judgment cannot be appealed, or that the time limit for an appeal or challenge has passed or that the decision is final. The translator who will make its translation in Greek must know the Greek legal terminology and its equivalent terms in the foreign language, because the foreign court decision, order, ruling or judgment and the separate document on its finality must be interpreted in a way that can be understood by the court in Greece, which will be called to recognize the foreign decision. The legal terminology of the foreign country and that of Greece may require a translation with Greek legal terminology, which would not be known to translators who are not lawyers in Greece.
Once the foreign judgment is recognized with a court decision by the Greek court, it can then be enforced in Greece, as if it was issued by a Greek court in the first place. If it is a foreign judgment related to the collection of compensation or any other type of monetary amount, it will be served by a process server to the defendant/respondent in Greece and collection will be attempted. If the foreign decision is a divorce decree, the divorce will be validated in Greece and the Greek citizen requesting the recognition of the foreign divorce will be allowed to marry for a second time or to register his/her second/subsequent marriage and the children, or will finalize the process of the Greek citizenship.
*Christos Iliopoulos, attorney at the Supreme Court of Greece, LL.M.