Greek lawyers are ‘sitting like zombies’ while the so-called ‘Troika’ sets about destroying the country’s legal profession, a prominent member of the Athens bar has alleged.

Nikolaos Koutkias told the Gazette: ‘The Troika destroyed the bar in Ireland and now it wants to do the same in Greece.’ A ‘brain drain’ is under way in which young lawyers are leaving the country in droves, he added.

Koutkias was criticising the legislative changes that Greece has made over the last few years in return for ‘bailout’ loans from the Troika (the tripartite committee led by the European Commission with the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund).

These changes were intended to improve Greece’s business and investment environment, increase its competitiveness and generally inject renewed confidence into the economy.

The reforms have made it easier to dismiss employees, tightened conditions for early retirement and reduced benefits for those retiring before 65. They have also increased the tax burden on individuals. Unemployment in Greece is running at 27% and youth unemployment at more than 50%

Koutkias said: ‘Clients cannot afford to go to court because the cost of justice is too high for an unemployed person. This is a retrogressive step back to the 17th century.’

He added that it was a ‘joke’ when the Troika began a dialogue with Greece’s law societies. ‘The Troika’s programme had already been voted through by the Greek parliament,’ he said.

Koutkias is ‘pessimistic’ about the prospects for Greece and its legal services.

He said: ‘The law schools are still producing new graduates and yet there are no cases and no money for them. Many are moving to Central Europe or Australia to find work. It is a brain drain. Soon only the grandparents will be left. There can be no future for a country when the productive generation has gone overseas.

‘In the meantime, we sit like zombies in front of our TVs waiting for the credits to roll.’

Koutkias was speaking at the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe (CCBE) conference in Brussels last week.