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Media Watch 2005

30 January 2005
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: George Psyllides
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 30 January 2005.
Vassiliou insists property bill will not target Turkish Cypriots
" The Turkish Cypriot breakaway state has embarked on a frenzy of property sales to eager European opportunists, mostly British, seeking properties at bargain prices. The amendment would allow district courts to issue European arrest warrants for people holding properties illegally. Current legislation, in force for the past 40 years, provides for a maximum penalty of six months in jail or a £400 fine for offenders."

A BILL targeting foreigners buying Greek Cypriot property in the occupied north could sail through parliament in the next couple of weeks after the majority of parties gave it the green light.

It is nothing more than an amendment to current legislation concerning the illegal possession and use of property, but due to the political situation it becomes a very important weapon in the fight against the sale of refugee properties in the north.

The Turkish Cypriot breakaway state has embarked on a frenzy of property sales to eager European opportunists, mostly British, seeking properties at bargain prices.

The amendment would allow district courts to issue European arrest warrants for people holding properties illegally.

Current legislation, in force for the past 40 years, provides for a maximum penalty of six months in jail or a £400 fine for offenders.

It fails, however, to meet the criteria necessary for a European arrest warrant, since to secure one, the offence should carry a sentence of over 12 months.

The amendment has been discussed in closed-door sessions by the House Legal Affairs Committee, and, according to one source, the majority of parties have given it the OK.

The bill is expected to be forwarded to the plenum and possibly approved within the next couple of weeks, the source said.

Submission of the bill coincided with the ongoing case against a British woman sued by a Greek Cypriot refugee for possession and building on his property in the north.

On November 9, 2004, the Nicosia district court ordered the demolition of the house that Linda and David Orams built on the orchard belonging to Meletis Apostolides from Lapithos in the Kyrenia district.

The court also ordered the Orams couple to pay him around £7,000 in damages.
The case is considered very important, because once Cyprus joined the EU on May 1 last year, court judgements in one member-state could be carried out in another.

Orams has since filed an appeal for the court decision to be set aside.

The decision is expected on February 21.

But if Orams loses the appeal and refuses to carry out the order, then, in conjunction with recourse in a British court, Apostolides could also file for a European arrest warrant.

Various nationalist Turkish Cypriot circles seized the opportunity and claimed that the law could also target Turkish Cypriots living in Greek Cypriot properties.

But United Democrats deputy Androulla Vasiliou, who tabled the bill, stressed that it was not intended for Turkish Cypriots.

She told the Sunday Mail that such a warrant was not necessary, as Turkish Cypriots lived on the island and a warrant could anyway be issued against them by a local court.

“The aim is not to get Turkish Cypriots, but to prevent foreigners from taking Greek Cypriot land in the occupied north,” she said.

One legal source said that even Turkish Cypriot ‘prime minister’ had told him he could not stop the sale of Greek Cypriot properties.

“As long as they are making money, they won’t,” the source said.

And new ways are being sought to pursue those buying properties, beyond the compensation factor.

Those who bought or were planning to buy should know the consequences, the source said.

House Legal Affairs Committee chairman Ionas Nicolaou echoed Vasiliou’s reassurances that the bill was not aimed at Turkish Cypriots.

Nicolaou said the power to issue European arrest warrants could be put into effect immediately without Cyprus having to join the Schengen agreement.

If the place of residence of the person was known, then the procedure could proceed immediately, Nicolaou said.

But even if it was not known, if Cyprus forwarded the information of a wanted person to one European country, that country automatically passed on the information to other European countries through the Schengen Information system (SIS) database."