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Report: Greece

Greek judges strike as justice budget cut again

European Commission Director Matthias Morse (C) arrives at the Finance Ministry for a meeting with Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras in Athens
European Commission Director Matthias Morse (C) arrives at the Finance Ministry for a meeting with Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras in Athens Reuters/Yorgos Karahalis

This week Greeks were treated to a rare sight: empty courts, as judges walked away from their benches protesting further cuts to their salaries. They were protesting at justice budget cuts in a country where crime is on the increase.

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The budgets of the public security and justice ministries are being slashed again, due to the austerity imposed by a cash-strapped government trying desperately to economise in order to repay the huge public debt.

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Penal court judges were the first to go on strike. They decided to down gavels from 10 am to 3.30 pm every day, for 20 consecutive days. Administrative courts judges quickly followed suit.

Even the justices of the Court of Audit, one of Greece’s three top-ranking courts, walked off the job. At the other two, the Supreme Court and of the Council of State, judges did not take part in the industrial action.

The strike is expected to cause havoc. Not only will a great number of criminal cases be postponed, with some inevitably thrown out because of the statute of limitations, but also an equally important number of cases concerning financial liability, loan restructuring, tax evasion and financial fraud will be delayed.

Greece needs to put its economy in order if it wants to save money and to attract foreign direct investment. Closed courts may not help that endeavour, according to some observers who fear that striking judges may frighten investors away.

 

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