AuthorPanagiota Petroglou
1 Introduction
1.1 Basic structure of the national legal system
Greece is a parliamentary republic. The Greek legal order has a strict hierarchical structure
provided by the Constitution,1 which is written and rigid2 and prevails over statutes.
According to Article 28(1) of the Constitution, international treaties introduced into the
Greek legal order by statute and subsequ ently ratified prevail over statutes. G reek courts
acknowledge the primacy of EU law over the Constituti on. They often apply EU law and
they interpret and apply the Constitution in light of EU law, in particular in gender equality
cases. All courts review the c onformity of statutes with the sta ndards of the Constitution,
EU law and ratified treaties and either interpret the statutes in conformity with these
standards or disapply those that they consider to be contrary thereto (Articles 93(4), 87(2)
and 28 of the C onstitution). There are three branches of the judiciary: i) administrative,
ii) civil and penal and iii) the Court of Audit. The administrative courts hear claims against
the State, local authorities and other legal persons governed by public law, including claims
by their personnel and social security claims again st compulsory social security schem es,
as the entities that run them are legal persons governed by public law, except for pension
claims by civil servants which ar e heard by the Court of Audit. The civil courts hear cases
between private persons an d the penal courts hear c riminal cases (Articles 94 -98 of the
All courts incidentally review the conformity of administrative acts with the Constitution,
EU law, ratified treaties and statutes and dis apply those which conflict therewith. An
administrative act of general applicability (acte réglementaireΣ), e.g. a decree or a
ministerial d ecision, which is contrary t o the Constitution, EU law, a ratified treaty or a
statute, will be an nulled, in whole o r in part, by the competent administrative court. An
individual administrative act or omission will also be annulled on the same grounds. A
statutory provision cannot be directly challenged for annulment. It may be declared
inapplicable in a particular case because it is contrary to the Constitution, EU law or a
ratified treaty. However, when two of the three supreme courts (the Supreme Civil and
Penal Court (SCPC), the Council of State (the Supreme Ad ministrative Court; CS), or the
Court of Audit) express conflicting opinions on the constitutionality of a statutory provision,
the Special Supreme Court may declare it invalid (Article 100 of the Constituti on).
The annulment of an administrative act has, in principle, a retroactive erga omnes effect:
the act or it s provision that has been annulled is deemed never to have been enacted.
However, in exceptional circumstances, the CS, taking into account the situations created
through the applicati on of the impugned act, in particular in favour of pers ons of good
faith, and the p ublic interest, may d ecide that these effects must start at a later date, in
any event prior to the date of the judgment.3 The CS consid ers that this applies not only
to actions for annulment, but to all claims before administrative courts, such as claims for
pay or social security benefits. The CS has used this discretion in ju dgments regarding
pension cuts. It has held that the statutory provisions on the basis of which the claimantsΣ
pensions were cut for the seventh time within two years disregarded the requirement to
respect and protect the value of the human being and the principles of solidarity, equality
in public charges and proportionality enshrined in the Constitution, so that th e essence of
the right to social security, i.e. the granting of benefits allowing a decent standard of living,
1 In 1975, after the fall of the seven-year military dictatorship, a new Constitution containing many
provisions on human rights, including rights pertaining to gender equality and family protection, was
adopted, while in 2001 a provision requiring positive action, in particular in favour of women, was added
(see below in Section 2.1. of this report). The text of the Constitution, as amended in 1986, 2001 and
2008, is available in Greek, English, French and German on the ParliamentΣs website:
2 This is because in Greece the amendment of the constitutional provisions can take place only under very
strict conditions and some constitutional provisions must not be amended, as the Constitution itself
3 Article 22(1) Act 4274/2014, OJ A 147/14.7.2014.

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