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Special Legal Department – Responsibilities – Structure

Special Legal Department – Responsibilities – Structure

The Special Legal Department, which was created in 1931 with the mandate to provide legal support to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, covers today, from the legal point of view, the activities of the Ministry on issues of International and European Law and is entrusted with the mandate to provide legal advice, to represent the Ministry abroad on legal and judicial issues and to handle matters related to international treaties.

The Special Legal Department comprises the Public International Law Section, the European Union Law Section and the Office of International Treaties.

The Public International Law Section is entrusted with the mandate to study and deliver legal advice on issues of public international law as well as on issues arising out of the interpretation and implementation of international treaties concluded by Greece.

More specifically, it provides legal opinions on every issue of public international law submitted to it, studies and comments upon draft international treaties and participates in negotiations for the drafting and conclusion of international legal instruments.

Furthermore, it deals with international legal disputes on public international law issues. More concretely, it handles, from the legal point of view, interstate disputes to which Greece is a party in the event that such disputes are submitted to an international procedure of conciliation, arbitration or judicial settlement. It also represents the Hellenic Republic before the International Court of Justice, acting as the Agent of the Greek State and assists the Legal Council of State in specific cases concerning specialized topics of public international law. More generally, it handles issues concerning the International Court, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, as well as other interstate organs of judicial nature and international arbitration bodies.

Finally, the Public International Law Section follows and participates in intergovernmental committees and activities on issues related to its mandate in the framework of the United Nations and other international and regional Organizations and Conferences, as well as in the presentation of national reports, in particular before UN human rights treaty bodies.

The European Union Law Section is responsible for dealing with issues related to European Union law or related to the functioning of the Union's institutions and bodies. More specifically, the Section has the following responsibilities:

(1) Advisory competence. The Section is responsible for examining and delivering opinions on any matter concerning the interpretation and application of the “acquis communautaire” as it is formulated by the revision of the Treaties. It advises on any legal issue of EU interest referred to it by either the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Departments, or other Ministries and Public Bodies. Also, members of the Section participate in legislative drafting committees when drafting a legislative act related to the law of the Union, especially when it comes to the transposition of Directives into the Greek legal order.

(2) Handling cases of compliance with European Union law. The Section is responsible for dealing with infringement cases, i.e. the Commission's complaints for a breach of EU law, either for non-transposition or for inadequate transposition or even inadequate implementation in general. The Section works in cooperation with the competent officials of the Administration, in order to resolve such issues and to avoid their referral to the Court of Justice of the EU. Aiming at the same goal, the Section regularly organizes meetings with representatives of the Directorates-General of the European Commission.

(3) Representation before the Union's courts. The Section represents the Hellenic Republic before the Court of Justice and the General Court and other judicial or arbitration bodies within the European Union. In particular, members of the Section represent the Hellenic Republic: (a) in actions for breach of the EU Law; (b) in actions for annulment and for failure to act; (c) in cases concerning other Member States or EU institutions or requests for an opinion; (d) in preliminary rulings. The Section is also entrusted with the enforcement of certain decisions of the EU institutions, in order for these decisions to be enforced in our country.

(4) Participation in groups and networks within the European Union. Members of the Section participate in Council’s and Commission’s committees and working groups to promote EU law in specific areas. In these groups, they express the Greek positions and views and negotiate draft legislative acts of the EU. Additionally, the Section's members participate in meetings and networks for exchange of views and coordination with their counterparts from the other Member States.

The Office of International Treaties undertakes the necessary actions for the approval and the ratification by the competent State organs of international treaties concluded by Greece as well as for their registration with the Secretariat of the United Nations. Furthermore, the Office keeps the originals of international treaties concluded by Greece and follows multilateral international treaties to which Greece is a party as far as their contracting parties and the reservations that may be submitted are concerned.

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