Christos Clerides on his first term as CBA President and priorities for the next three years
George Ploutarchou 11:24 - 17 October 2023
In an interview with InBusinessNews, the President of the Cyprus Bar Association, Christos Clerides, reveals the goals and priorities he has set out in the event of his re-election.
At the same time, Christos Clerides reviews what happened during his first three-year presence in the presidency of the CBA, noting that it had been a very difficult three years due to the goals he had set for an overall upgrade of the Association's prestige. Something which, as he points out, was achieved.
Among the goals he sets in the event of his re-election is the resolution of the problems that, according to him, lawyers face with the banking system.
In this context, and speaking of an unacceptable situation that cannot continue, Clerides mentions that, as lawyers, they should now think about the possibility of creating a Cooperative Bank of Lawyers to serve the members of the CBA.
At the same time, Christos Clerides expresses the opinion that lawyers must take charge of their own destiny in terms of attracting foreign clients and investments, while he makes special reference to his initiative to review the conditions for admission to the profession.
"The profession will be upgraded and its prestige strengthened by the tightening of admission requirements," he notes.
In conclusion, Christos Clerides sends the message that only with specific proposals and recommendations, and not with vagueness and generalisations, will the legal profession move forward.
You are running again for the presidency of the Pancypriot Bar Association. In a short evaluation of the three-year project 2020-2023, do you consider that your goals have been met?
The first three years at the CBA were very difficult, given the goals I had set for the overall upgrade of the CBA’s prestige, a goal which I consider to have been achieved.
We proceeded to set up 19 Committees for all matters and thus responded positively to our obligations as a scientific body and not just as a guild body of members. We have developed an excellent relationship with the House of Representatives, especially with the Justice Committee. The assistance of the CBA in hundreds of Bills was catalytic and continues to be essential.
At the same time, I created a liaison committee with the Ministry of Justice and Public Order for better cooperation. Among other things, this cooperation has borne fruit, as can be seen with the passing last Thursday of the Bill concerning lawyers, the product of my hard work over the last three years.
As a result of the passing of the Bill in question, all lawyers, whether they practice law or not, are subject to the jurisdiction of the CBA Council, with the obligation to pay an annual subscription and attend lifelong training as a condition, if they ever wish to be registered in the Register of Practicing Advocates.
At the same time, in the final stage of supervisory control, is legislation for the execution of judicial decisions, which, apart from the modernization of the mechanisms, provides for the appointment of a receiver/manager of the property of the judgment debtor, who will be a lawyer and will undertake the collection of the decision with the right to open bank accounts.
In addition, we cooperated with the Government and the Legal Service on many issues.
The supervisory role of the CBA
How do you judge the handling of the PDS in relation to its supervisory role? Especially with regard to the issue of sanctions, where you were personally criticized for some of your statements and reports...
In matters of sanctions, precisely because of the correct handling and effective control, there is no question of the CBA losing its supervisory role.
We have received credit abroad, but also in Cyprus, as the only professional body that has carried out hundreds of supervisory audits and adjudicated a large number of cases in matters concerning passports and in general the legislation to prevent and combat money laundering illegal activities.
We also received credit in relation to sanctioning and were fully vindicated in terms of our balanced handling. On the one hand the protection of our members and on the other the observance of the relevant provisions of Cypriot and European Legislation.
The priorities for the next three years
If you are re-elected to the helm of the CBA, what will your priorities be?
The ‘bet’ for the next three years, which will be much more difficult than the first three years, is the reform of justice in the District Courts. For this purpose, we have provided for the introduction of technology, that is, recording of proceedings, as well as remote hearings (ODR). We are at a very advanced stage.
In addition, we recommended the creation of specialized jurisdictions, so that specialized judges can try cases of their specialty, with speed, safety, and quality.
To deal with the backlog, our suggestion is that retired lawyers and judges take it over. We need 20 to 30 for all of Cyprus. The matter is before the Minister of Finance for approval of the necessary funds.
The challenge of the next three years is also the promotion of the culture of arbitration and mediation, as well as the strengthening of institutions.
To this end, the CBA has promoted the Cyprus Centre for Arbitration and Mediation, and to this end has opened the Registry to lawyers with 12 years of experience, and will proceed with further expansion to include young lawyers with 7 years of experience and above to litigate cases of up to €100,000.
It should be and is in our plan, to launch an advertising campaign, so that the parties now know that the alternative method of dispute resolution is the only solution for speedy and more effective adjudication of their disputes.
On the subject of the new Regulations, it should be noted that they were introduced before we took up our duties as a Council in October 2020, and came into force on 1 September 2023. We had sufficient warning and from September 2021 to date we have trained over 3,500 lawyers. and we will continue to do so.
Our concern now is to at least double the costs, given the difficulty of implementing the institutions and given at the same time the promotion of alternative dispute resolution methods.
Furthermore, the increase in legal aid is a compensation.
Our goal is also to solve the problems we face with the banking system, which unfortunately failed to respond to the needs of the time, resulting in continuous and multiple problems.
This unacceptable situation cannot continue and as lawyers, we should now consider the possibility of creating a Lawyers Cooperative Bank to serve our members.
The Pension Fund
Another issue that is of great concern to the legal world is the Pension Fund...
We dared to touch the Pension Fund, which no one talks about and unfortunately previous Councils moved on to the next ones.
We listened to the suggestions of our members. Those who want to leave will be able to do so and the rest will operate either with the existing system with perimeter changes or with the Provident Fund.
It should be noted that for the first time, we had profitability from investments abroad, in France, Germany, and Austria.
How can PDS contribute to the promotion of Cyprus as a professional services center to attract investment?
I believe that lawyers should take their own destiny into their own hands in terms of attracting foreign clients and investment.
In parallel with the campaign of the government and various actors to promote Cyprus, either for investment purposes or as a center of services and/or activities, the CBA, in cooperation with its members, should develop international activity with conferences abroad and in Cyprus to finance these actions.
In closing, I would also like to mention that we have processed in the Legal Council on my own initiative the review of the conditions for admission to the profession. The profession will be upgraded and its prestige will be strengthened by tightening the admission conditions with the exact aim of upgrading it.
The new criteria have been approved, which will now have to be introduced into relevant legislation and the corresponding arrangements made where necessary.
Finally, what message would you like to send to the legal world ahead of the upcoming election process?
We have worked hard for the past three years and are rolling up our sleeves for the next one. I am a man of action and not of words. I abhor vagueness and generalisation. I speak with specific examples, recommendations, and suggestions. This is the only way we will move forward.