Various Greek Cypriot governments over the past decade have watched with concern as citizens from South Cyprus have sold their land in the North.
Until now, they have applied bureaucratic and moral pressure to stem the flow of applications to the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) in the TRNC.
There have been newspaper campaigns against this “treachery” and politicians in the South have universally condemned it. However they have not dared to go further than that because the IPC is recognised by the European Court of Human Rights as the legitimate route to take. A number of challenges at the ECHR by Greek Cypriots against this process have all failed.
Since the economic collapse of South Cyprus and the prospects of many years of financial hardship, the number of applications to the IPC has increased sharply. This has caused annoyance and frustration to the new Anastasiades government in the South.
Now it appears that they are taking the first legal steps to deter their citizens applying to the IPC.
The Minister of the Interior, Sokratis Hasikos, is proposing a change to the law so as to stop the “danger” of selling their properties in the North to Turkey.
Instead, the proposed law will allow Greek Cypriots to sell their land freely to other Greek Cypriots. They will be encouraged to do so by the government who will remove all taxes related to such transactions.
According to Mr Hasikos, this will deter Greek Cypriots selling their land in the North to Turkey for “meagre sums”. He points out that Turkish Cypriots have been selling their land in the South.
This worries Mr Hasikos, because he feels that these two trends, if allowed to continue would in effect mean that a solution on property exchange would have been reached in the worst possible way for Greek Cypriots.
He says, “there will be nothing left to negotiate or settle; with these sales we will have partitioned Cyprus with our own hands”.
Mr Hasikos went on to say that the draft law would be presented to the council of ministers for approval. He noted that a clause in the law would allow the original seller to buy back his land if he wished to, subject to paying back the purchase amount and interest.
When asked if the current law allowing Greek Cypriots to get mortgages on their land in the North would continue, Mr Hasikos said that this would be looked into at a later stage.
He said, “currently, we must look at preventing our citizens selling their lands to the IPC”.