Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
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Media Watch 2003

17 May 2003
Source: Sunday Mail
Comment: The following article appeared in the Sunday Mail of Nicosia on 17 May 2003.
One-sided view of reality in the north

THE arguments over status and discrimination being put forward by foreigners who bought property in the occupied north, or who moved there to take up jobs, were given full coverage in the Sunday Mail Letters column this week. The writers, mainly from addresses in the north, put forward a number of points which bear examination.

Their main argument is that they are being discriminated against because as owners of properties bought in the north after the 1974 invasion they are not allowed to enter the free areas, as are the Turkish Cypriots, since they do not have legal status.

On May 1, this column pointed out that their cries of ‘foul play’ were groundless. The government, the British High Commission and the European Union all rejected their arguments, but the same discredited points were pursued by the letter writers. Once again, the argument was promoted that as EU citizens the foreign (mainly British) residents in the north were being denied their rights. It is disingenuous, to say the least, that expats who took advantage of the situation by buying cheap, Greek Cypriot-owned property in the north, despite official warnings from both the UK and the EU about the illegality of many such deals, should now seek the protection of the EU. The fact is that many of the property owners in the north, who now see their lifestyle and finances under threat, put up two fingers to the EU (and the UK) for 20-plus years; suddenly shouting about their rights as EU citizens is a bit rich.

Then there is the ‘human rights’ argument. One letter writer said it was not their fault if they have had to travel to and from their homes via Turkey and an illegal port of entry in the north. How else could they get to and from their homes, since the government had not allowed them to fly in to Larnaca or Paphos and then drive across the Green Line? True, but those who moved in after 1974 conveniently ignore the fact that they chose to live in what became the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’, which was not, and is not, recognised by any country other than Turkey. Could they reasonably expect to be allowed to use the free area to travel to and from the occupied area?

Other contributors take us to task over references in our May 1 Opinion column to ‘free’ and ‘occupied’ areas -- such phrases are now out-of-date, discredited rhetoric, given the ‘new reality’ so imaginatively created by Rauf Denktash. While we welcome the lifting of barriers and the momentum which is generated as a result, the ‘new reality’ is not a settlement. The ‘free ’ and ‘occupied’ areas are still precisely that – the hope is that with the people of both sides voting with their feet by crossing the line, and with the welcome they have received, moves towards a settlement will follow, and ‘free’ and ‘occupied’ can finally be consigned to history.

The ‘new reality’ being proposed by foreign property buyers in the north appears to start with the premise that what is ‘real’ for them should be respected. In the case of Greek Cypriot property, that means they are in situ and should not be disturbed. Such an argument ignores the ‘old reality’ that a lot of the houses the Brits and other Europeans now call home are legally owned by someone else. Telling a Greek Cypriot who turns up at the door of his house to ‘bugger off’ (as one Brit said he would do, in an interview in The Times, May 3) may smack of ‘the Englishman’s home is his castle’ mentality but it ignores the reality – and the law. Many foreign property owners in the north gambled and could now lose. As one European diplomat said: “If you put £50,000 on a horse and lose you don’t expect to get your money back”. Quite"