Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
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23 June 2009
Apostolides v Orams case – property rights in Turkish occupied Cyprus. The importance of recent ECJ decision discussed at London seminar
European legislation provides for the mutual recognition of judgments among EU member states.

"European legislation provides for the mutual recognition of judgments among EU member states."
 
London, 23 June 2009 - The significance of the recent decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the case of Apostolides v Orams, which found that the English courts must enforce judgments in favour of the rightful Greek Cypriot property owner against a British couple who illegally acquired and built on his land, in the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus, was discussed at a Seminar presented by Lobby for Cyprus.

 

The ECJ upheld the jurisdiction of the Republic of Cyprus’ courts over Greek Cypriot land under the illegal occupation of Turkish forces and also endorsed the enforceability of the Republic of Cyprus judgments against those illegally occupying Greek Cypriot land in the northern part of Cyprus.  The Apostolides v Orams case will now return to the English Court of Appeal later this year.

 

Haris Sophoclides, President of POMAK the World Federation of Overseas Cypriots, President of the Greek Cypriot Brotherhood, Vice-President of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad and former President of the National Federation of Cypriots in the UK, chaired the Seminar.

 

Outlining the history of litigation taken in Cyprus to date regarding the illegal sale of Greek Cypriot-owned land and property in the occupied north, Mr Constantis Candounas, lawyer for Mr Apostolides, explained the process of action taken in Cyprus and the steps required to enforce those judgments in England and the implications of the decision in the ECJ.

 

Following the invasion of the northern area of Cyprus by Turkish troops in 1974, the Apostolides family was forced to flee to the Government-controlled areas.  In 2002, Mr and Mrs Orams, a British couple, purported to purchase the land from a third party. Mr Apostolides’ orchard had by then been destroyed and the Orams had instead built a villa upon the land, which they now occupy as a holiday home. In 2004 and 2005, Mr Apostolides obtained judgments against the Orams in the courts of the Republic of Cyprus. These judgments ordered Mr and Mrs Orams to cease trespassing on the land, deliver up possession of the land to Mr Apostolides, pay compensation to him, demolish the villa and refrain from continuing with the unlawful intervention on the land.  Due to the practical impossibility of enforcing the judgments in the northern area, because of the presence of Turkey’s 43,000-strong occupation army, Mr Apostolides sought to enforce the judgments against the Orams in England.  European legislation provides for the mutual recognition of judgments among EU member states and enables such judgments of the courts of EU member states to be enforced in the courts of other EU member states. The case, therefore, basically concerned the enforceability in EU member states of judgments of the courts of the Republic of Cyprus which relate to land in the northern area of Cyprus. In the ECJ’s decision, such a judgment of a court of the Republic of Cyprus must be recognised and enforced in other EU states.

 

In a moving and very personal account, Meletis Apostolides, an architect whose family lived in Lapithos, in the northern area of the Republic of Cyprus, recounted his memories over the last few decades and explained the emotional turmoil that he and his family had endured on discovery of the Orams’ house on his land. He emphasised that it was important for all to understand that this decision was important for his family because of the personal emotional attachment to their ancestral land, although they still cannot return home. 

 

Also on the panel were Costas Frangeskides, a member of Lobby for Cyprus, whose law firm represented Mr Apostolides; and the prominent lawyer Nick Kounoupias of Lobby.

 

Frangeskides covered the legal points of the English High Court’s decision which was appealed to the Court of Justice, as well as the significance of the latter court’s decision.  Kounoupias covered the implications of the ruling with regard to future property-related cases brought in the English High Court and also what practical steps property owners could take to discover who was in their property.  It means, also, that those who occupy homes or land on which they build houses will not only lose same but also the money they paid in the fraudulent purchase.  The ECJ’s ruling reinforces previous decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, which all have been in favour of the Greek Cypriot refugees, that the absence of the owners and their inability to return to their homes and property does not mean that they no longer own the property left behind as they fled the Turkish invaders.  With the ECJ ruling, decisions in the Republic’s courts relating to property issues in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus must be enforced in all countries of the European Union. Mr Apostolides case will now be referred back to the English Court of Appeal for a final ruling later this year.

 

Present at the Seminar were a large number of dignitaries including representatives from many embassies and Greek Cypriot Associations.

 

More than 160 people attended the Seminar at the Hellenic Centre on Paddington Street, which was a successful and important event.

 

A large amount of time was spent on the night in a lively question and answer session. Most of the Greek Cypriots were very grateful to Mr Candounas and Mr Apostolides for giving them some hope in the pursuit of their properties in the occupied part of Cyprus. Two recurrent themes were also seen on the night. Firstly, that the Greek Cypriots all want to return to their homes and villages and no amount of compensation will ever replace that demand and secondly, they all wanted to know how they could also follow the legal route to reclaim their properties - with three distinguished lawyers on the panel they were not disappointed with the answers.

 

The Seminar was sponsored by Lobby for Cyprus, a non-party-political organisation, based in the UK, dedicated to the unification of the island through the removal of the 43,000-man Turkish army, the repatriation of the 160,000 Anatolian colonists imported into the north contrary to all international laws, and the return of all refugees to their homes.