Hosted by Palermo Bar Association, General Congress of the European Bars Association (FBE) and its 30th Anniversary events were held in Palermo on 17-19 November 2022. President of Istanbul Bar Association Atty. Filiz Saraç represented Istanbul Bar Association during the congress. Foreign Relations Coordinator Ece Basmacı Karalar was also present at the congress.
The congress program was given a start with the FBE Commission meetings on Thursday, November 17. President Saraç attended the FBE Future of the Profession Committee meeting and informed the participating bar associations (Vienna, Luxembourg, Switzerland) on the difficulties faced by lawyers in Turkey. At the meeting where the problems of young lawyers in Europe was discussed, President Saraç referred to the member structure of the Istanbul Bar Association and said that 60% of the 57508 members have been in legal profession for 10 years or less. Considering the practices of other countries for the problems of young lawyers and the profession, opinions were exchanged on what could be future-oriented solutions. It was resolved to conduct a survey to determine the current situation of young lawyers in European bar associations.
The FBE Congress was held on Friday, November 18 with the participation of member bar associations. In the congress, under the general topic of “Lawyers Under Attack”, lawyers as the guardians of the rule of law including during times of war and times of political and social conflict, the current challenges around legal privilege and professional secrecy, and whether bar associations should be dealing with stress, anxiety and professional concerns affecting the lawyers’ work were discussed.
The FBE Bar Presidents’ Forum (Forum des Bâtonniers) was held on Saturday, November 19 with the broad participation of the presidents, board members and members from the FBE member bar associations. Addressing to the participants at the forum, President Saraç expressed her pleasure to be present at the congress of FBE, of which the Istanbul Bar Association is one of the founding members, as the first female president in the 144-year history of Istanbul Bar Association. Noting that having been elected as the first woman president was perceived as an indicator of the commitment to Atatürk's revolutions and the secular republic, and that she received positive reactions from lawyers and the public opinion, Saraç made an intervention during which she mentioned the problems experienced in the judiciary and the lawyers’ profession in Turkey. In her speech, Saraç said that the multi-bar association system in Turkey was introduced as a formula to weaken and divide the bar associations, which are known for their large number of members and oppositional stance, and to establish bar associations that support the political power, but that lawyers who believe in the independence of the profession and bar associations did not support multiple bar associations no matter what their political views are. Referring to the regime change in Turkey after the 2010 referendum, Saraç noted that the principle of separation of powers has been damaged, and the problem of independence of the judiciary continues to increase. President Saraç said, “The trials held in an environment where the courts are under the influence make it difficult for our colleagues to reach a fair solution. This situation creates difficulties in the establishment of justice and undermines confidence in the judiciary”. Finally, President Saraç emphasized the importance of international professional solidarity in the face of the difficulties faced by lawyers and bar associations.
After the Presidents’ Forum, FBE General Assembly was held. After the admission of the new members to FBE, the General Assembly went on with the the reports of the Presidents of Commissions and the reports of the FBE President, the Secretary General and the Treasurer. The Congress was finalized with the solemn commemoration of the 30th Anniversary of the European Bars Federation, a presentation about the 2023 Congresses and a video projection of the FBE history.