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WG Independence-Efficiency > Meetings > Beaulieu-sur-mer 2005 > Meeting Beaulieu-sur-Mer 11-12 March 2005 - Greece

Meeting Beaulieu-sur-Mer 11-12 March 2005 - Greece

I] Direct access of non profit-making organizations to administrative courts

Under Greek Administrative Law, all kinds of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), such as associations, unions, political parties and groups of federations of the above organizations can initiate a procedure in front of an administrative court. The basic rule that guarantees this possibility is found in Article 20 of the Greek Constitution of 1975, according to which "Every person shall be entitled to receive legal protection by the courts and may plead before them his views concerning his rights or interests, as specified by law".

This constitutional provision has been interpreted by the administrative courts (especially by the Council of State) broadly, as granting the right of all NGOs to contest any illegal activity of the State that bears an effect on their scopes. The relevant case-law is very rich in cases of enviromental protection. Not only ecological groups, but also other private legal persons are entitled to file remedies at the administrative courts, as the subordinate legislation does not distinguish between associations and individuals that exercise such a right. Therefore, no kind of previous authorisation or approval is necessary for the admissibility of the above remedies.

The type of procedure that NGOs can initiate varies. They can persecute the quashing of regulatory administrative acts (not laws passed by the Parliament, even though in the Greek judicial system, the constitutionality of such laws can be contested, indirectly in front of every regular court), or the quashing or modification of individual administrative acts. In case of tort liability of the State by an act or omission of the Public Administration or a public legal person, NGOs can demand compensation for moral harm or material (positive and negative) loss.
When NGOs exercise their right to judicial protection by the administrative courts, the judicial remedies are admissible when, i) there is a specific interest of the organisation (e.g. a political party challenging the regulations of the competent authority that determine the radio and television time available to the candidates during an election period), ii) there is a collective interest recognized either by law, or by case law of the administrative courts (the classic example in Greek jurisprudence about collective interest of NGOs is the protection of environment. Not only ecological groups, but practically every kind of association can initiate an application for annulment in front of the Council of State against any administrative act, harmful to the natural or cultural environment, even though action for compensation in such cases, due to general interest of what is at stake, is limited). In no way can NGOs put forward the own interest of a single member of the organisation, as, in such a case, the individual is entitled to lodge his own remedies.

The criteria for standing are established by law, case law and statutes of the organisation. The most usual requirements are territorial jurisdiction (local NGOs are exercising more frequently their right to access to justice than the ones of national level) and the pursue of legitimate interest. The number of members is not an important factor.

As stated above, the fields in which NGOs are active litigants in front of the administrative courts are environment (in all forms), construction and town planning, and consumer protection (particularly the bank market). In civil service cases the activity of NGOs is not important and only political parties can initiate a procedure regarding an electoral dispute. Associations of parents and teachers usually initiate procedures for educational matters. But in the matters of Asylum and immigration law NGOs have no legal remedies, since these are considered of high importance for national security and only individuals with a specific interest are entitled to access to administrative courts.

Access to administrative courts presents no particular difficulties, in comparison to that of individuals, as far as a legitimate interest has been established. In such cases, the procedure is practically the same. In addition to that, access to other branches of the judiciary (civil, criminal, etc.) is more difficult, as in such cases it is hard to establish a common interest. 
There are no specific surveys about the number of actions being brought by NGOs in comparison with the whole number of actions. But many important cases in enviromental issues have been introduced to the courts by NGOs. In other words, the influence of NGOs in administrative case law is considered as an important factor.

ΙΙ] Indirect access in order to support an individual person for a previously action being brought by him/her or against him/her.

Generally speaking, NGOs are not capable of supporting individual litigants in an administrative dispute. In very few cases and provided they can establish a general interest out of a case, they can participate in the procedure but only in support of the validity of an administrative act. A recent development in this respect is the right of NGOs to file a memorandum in front of the Special Supreme Court (which is the highest court of the land) when it deals with cases of the constitutional validity of a statute, as long as the act in question has been challenged in a case in front of an administrative court, where the particular organization is a litigant. In such a case, the passed judgement has no direct effect to the trial in front of an administrative court.