Friday 17 May 2013 by Jonathan Rayner

Access to justice is being tested by the 'worst economic situation since world war II', the president of the Athens bar told a pan-European delegation of lawyers today.

In his keynote address, Ioannis Adamopoulos added that no matter how bad the economic climate, it was important that governments should 'not succumb to international financial control' to the detriment of democracy.

The protection of human rights was at the centre of the legal systems of Greece and other European states and must remain there as the profession adapts to globalisation and the liberalisation of the legal services market, he said.

Adamopoulos was addressing the plenary session of the Council of European Bars and Law Societies (CCBE), the body that represents around one million lawyers from the 31 member states of the European Union, European Economic Area and Switzerland.

A spokesman for the Greek government - the plenary session was in Athens - reminded delegates that democracy was born in Greece. There was a long history of respect for the rule of law, he said. 'Our modern supreme court stands on the spot where the god of war, Artes, was tried for the murder of one of Poseidon's sons,' he said.

CCBE president Evangelos Tsouroulis concluded the opening remarks by noting that 13 of the 42 states that were full members, associate members and observer members of the CCBE had declined to attend, mostly on financial grounds. He warned that the cost of the annual subscription must be kept as low as possible to help those states that are 'experiencing financial risk'.

The agenda for the plenary session includes anti-money laundering; small claims procedures; the common European sales law; human rights; and the CCBE's interventions into court cases in Hungary and Romania.

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