Commercial and Admiralty courts and litigation in English; Cyprus Justice becoming business friendly

There is no doubt that the professional services sector is a vital pillar of Cyprus economy. Considering that Justice is one of the country’s principal institutions, the quality of which directly relates to the country’s economic growth, it is logical that its operation should attract a fair share of attention from business, professionals and the public.

In light of the above, and in the context of the effort to upgrade the Justice institutions in Cyprus, an important set of reforms is being implemented; the House of Representatives has recently voted to amend the constitution, allowing for the use of the English language in certain court proceedings. Moreover, and linked with this, on 12 May 2022, the House enacted a law creating a Commercial Court and an Admiralty Court.

In relation to the language aspect of these changes, it will be now possible to use English in some court proceedings, this being applicable only for the Commercial Court and the Admiralty Court. While Greek remains the official court language, English may be used instead, if one or more of the litigants in these courts request it. Additionally, under the law recently passed, judges serving at the Commercial Court and the Admiralty Court will be required to have a very good knowledge of the English language.

In relation to the creation of these courts, it is hoped that this initiative will alleviate the caseload of the district courts which can struggle to deal with the specific complexities of commercial and shipping cases and typically take years to issue decisions. It is also hoped that having a specialist Commercial Court will increase Cyprus’ popularity and attractiveness as a venue for resolving international financial disputes.

The Commercial Court will be settling “commercial disputes”, about claims over €2.000.000. Such disputes include those arising out of contracts or other commercial documents, the sale of goods, insurance and reinsurance, the operation of financial markets, and transactions relating to shares or other financial instruments. Furthermore, this court will have jurisdiction to hear all competition law, arbitration and intellectual property related matters, irrespective of the amount of the dispute. The Admiralty Court will have exclusive jurisdiction to hear admiralty claims, which include claims relating to a vessel (which includes an aircraft), such as the ones about the ownership, possession, mortgage or charge of the vessel and any dispute arising from any collision or damage caused by or to a vessel.

The commencement date of the operation of these courts will be published by the Supreme Court. From that date any commercial cases pending before other court will have the possibility, at the option of the parties, of being transferred to the Commercial Court.  Pending admiralty cases shall be automatically transferred to the Admiralty Court. In both cases, a prerequisite for the transfer to proceed is that the hearing must have not yet started.

It is anticipated that the operation of the two new courts will help toward the speedy adjudication of commercial cases. This, combined with the option of litigating in English, is expected to boost the island’s competitiveness as a services hub. As a result, it is rational to expect that this innovative framework will be conducive to business growth in Cyprus.

Our firm’s lawyers are ready to assist in any request relevant to the jurisdiction of these new courts.

For more information, please speak with any member of our dedicated Litigation and Dispute Litigation Department or with your usual contact at Elias Neocleous & Co LLC.