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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Non-EU buyers not safe from long arm of ECJ ruling ]

Non-EU buyers not safe from long arm of ECJ ruling

THE EUROPEAN Court ruling on the Orams case could have worldwide implications for investors in the north, giving Greek Cypriots recourse to assets held outside the European Union, warned a human rights lawyer yesterday.

The ruling opens the door to Greek Cypriot refugees pursuing the assets of foreign “buyers” of their land in any one of the 27 EU member states, and even beyond, said Achilleas Demetriades.

The European Court of Justice ruling (ECJ) backed a Nicosia court’s judgement earlier this week against the British couple who had built a villa on land belonging to refugee Meletis Apostolides.

Assuming the English Court of Appeal adopts the ECJ ruling, Apostolides will be able to enforce the Nicosia court judgement in England by seizing the Orams’ assets in the UK.

The ruling has been described as a “huge blow” to the Turkish Cypriots with ominous consequences predicted for the economy of the breakaway state, heavily reliant on the sale of Greek Cypriot properties to foreigners.

Demetriades argued that the scope of the ruling went beyond simply discouraging EU citizens not to exploit Greek Cypriot land in the north, but was a warning bell for anyone with assets in the EU, or even in third countries outside the Union.

“This not only affects EU citizens, but also any persons with assets in the EU. For example, if you are from Russia, and have assets in Europe, you can still be caught,” he said.

Even if there are difficulties in executing a judgement against the usurper of your land in Cyprus, “you still have 26 other member states to look for enforceability, thereby increasing your chances”.

The human rights lawyer further suggested the long tentacles of the law could stretch beyond the EU to other countries whose residents have property interests in the north Potentially, judgements could be enforced anywhere in the world where there is a bilateral judicial enforcement agreement with an EU country, possibly including Russia, Israel or even Turkey.

“The question is by registering the judgement in an EU country, can you take that country’s bilateral agreements and then execute in the third country? If, for example, we were to register a judgement in France, which has a reciprocal enforcement of judgement treaty with a third country, say Russia, could you take advantage of that judgement in France and execute it in Russia?” asked Demetriades.

“You can use the other 26 EU member states as stepping stones to execute judgement in a third country on the basis of bilateral agreements which are independent of the EU. Obviously, the main target for this would be Turkish interests which are in abundance in the occupied areas,” he added.

A second possible implication of the ECJ ruling is the potential for civil litigation on events taking place in the north, with execution of the judgements in the south or EU.

“For example, a Greek Cypriot travels to the occupied areas and gets his car crashed into by a Turkish Cypriot in Kyrenia. He may bring an action against the Turkish Cypriot in the Kyrenia district court temporarily situated in Nicosia. If he obtains a judgement, and the defendant has assets in the government-controlled areas or the EU, then he can execute the judgement,” said Demetriades.

The reaction to the ruling in the north has been one of panic and outrage, with calls from some quarters for Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to pull out of the talks and even resign.

Speaking from London, President Demetris Christofias said the Orams decision should be used effectively in the talks but without adopting extreme positions. “Of course it’s not our position that the property issue and the Cyprus problem will be solved by the courts,” he added.

Hubert Faustmann, an international relations expert, described the ruling as a “huge blow” to the Turkish Cypriots which could prove to be “the kiss of death” in the long-term.

“It’s a huge success for the Greek Cypriots, which adds another layer of urgency to reach a settlement. It’s clear that without a solution, any Greek Cypriot, possibly with government help, can ask for their property back,” he said.

“It’s a vindication of the Greek Cypriot property position in the north, and anyone buying there will know about it. The north’s attractiveness will suffer and there is a huge hefty bill looming on Turkish Cypriots now,” he added.

Faustmann warned that the Turkish Cypriots could also seek redress for their properties in the government-controlled areas which would spark off a property war in the courts.

“Things can get ugly but it depends on how they want to play it and whether they want to escalate it?” he said.

The analyst said both leaders were still determined to find a solution through direct talks and not through the courts. But if the chance is passed, and more people start taking advantage of the Orams ruling, “in the long-run this could be the kiss of death for the north, where property is a huge source of income.”





(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.



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