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Why is the EU withholding information?

MEP Sir Graham Watson has asked the European Union to explain why certain documents concerning a case involving property in Cyprus have not been made available to a person he referred to as ‘X’.


SIR GRAHAM Watson, MEP for South West England and Gibraltar, recently asked a question in the European Parliament concerning the Secretary-General’s refusal to provide ‘Person X’ with documents relating to immovable property in Cyprus.

Question for written answer E-008346/2012
to the Commission
Rule 117
Sir Graham Watson (ALDE)

Subject: Access to documents in EU-Cypriot case concerning immovable property in Cyprus

Person X applied to the Secretary-General of the Commission on 16 July 2012 for access to certain documents related to the correspondence that has taken place between the Commission and the Cypriot authorities since 2011 concerning immovable property in Cyprus.

He had previously requested these documents from Vice-President Reding, but had been informed that her DG could not supply these documents because pre-infringement proceedings had been initiated against Cyprus: however, Person X could apply to the Secretary-General of the Commission for them.

However, in response to his application to the Secretary-General, Person X has now received a letter refusing his application and stating that disclosure of the documents could jeopardise the on-going search for an amicable solution to the dispute.

Can the Commission provide fuller information as to why Person X is unable to access the requested documents?

Who is Person X and why is the EU withholding information?

Readers' comments

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  • Odd_Job_Bob says:

    Hi Richard.

    Thanks for your kind words; I know I should get out more!

    How appropriate you watching TTSS recently (saw it myself a few months ago, loved it)! The theory goes (actually, pretty much widely accepted fact than just theory now) that the Americans believed our intelligence services were compromised AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL (i.e. Harold Wilson was a Soviet spy!) They thus didn’t trust us on anything and refused to share information, including the pre-agreed Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

    There are loads of quotes from British soldiers at the time who were initially deployed to protect the SBAs from the Turks (have a read of some of the stories from this old soldiers’ website: http://www.arrse.co.uk/military-history-militaria/78591-invasion-cyprus-4.html), but, when they realised no Turks were firing at them, were ordered to give them directions and help fill up their tanks which had run out of petrol! Intervention from on high stopped them from doing the only thing they were allegedly on the island to do: maintain peace.

    If we keep on firing our shells at the reinforced armour of the enemy tanks (how scared do you think the Cyprus establishment is of EU efforts to sort out the Great Cyprus Loan Scam? Not one jot), we’ll waste time and ammo (our money). The only difference between your position and mine is that I believe we should swivel our guns round to target the enemy’s weak supply lines and support staff. Those supply lines are the money trail.

    As we speak, a friend of a friend is in direct contact with one of the UK MPs who originally campaigned on our behalf, then pretty much disappeared from view on this issue. I cannot reveal what he has said so far but, if he gives his permission, I shall post on this forum the “unofficial” proof of what the UK government’s actual position is with regards to us and thus, how much help we can expect from the EU.

    If I don’t then I’ve obviously been killed by MI6…

  • Richard says:

    @Odd Job Bob. As ever you are thorough in your answers – and having just sat through two hours of ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ (great 2011 remake of the old BBC series btw) I shouldn’t wonder that our British Government could move in mysterious ways.

    It’s not a question of shutting eyes and ignoring the situation.

    It’s as Sir Graham is doing – choosing not to ACCEPT the situation.

    When we all accept the situation on this one Bob – we’re done for.

  • Costas Apacket says:

    OK I’ve done a little digging and it looks like Sir GW asked the question on the 24th September 2012.

    I wonder when he will get a response, if at all?

  • @Chaps – Interesting as the various comments are, can we please stay focussed on the subject of the article.

  • Odd_Job_Bob says:

    Denton,

    I agree that we shouldn’t let our guard down re: the Russians. I was surprised by the level of anti-Russian sentiment on the bases though as, before I came to Cyprus, for this particular Tommy, the Cold War was over.

    As far as the winding down of the bases is concerned, this is true of the Reserve Infantry Battalions at Dhekalia and Episkopi (defence cuts and their idea of a smaller standing but larger territorial army being part of it), but NOT at Agia Nik (Ayios Nikolaos). Have a look at who’s stationed there as well (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceFor/ServiceCommunity/OverseasPosting/Cyprus/AyiosNikolaos/)

    Further views on what Cyprus is actually for can be found here (although admittedly a bit shouty): http://militarybases.twoday.net/stories/763647/

    The permanent interest of Cyprus, to the British government and our Nato allies, is as a big, fat, aircraft carrier, with rather good ears.

    Protecting this operational necessity is paramount, to the detriment of all else.

  • Denton Makrell says:

    Odd Job. Your anecdote about one of the British bases being apparently hypersensitive about Russians accessing the base as rugby fans is surely not that odd. When you take into consideration the known aggressive spying agenda of Russia in the post-communist era, why should we expect the UK to let its guard down? But that fact, in itself, does not validate your assertion that the SBAs are of such critical importance to the West. If they were so critical, why are they being systematically run down?

  • Odd_Job_Bob says:

    Hi Richard,

    In answer to your points:

    1) “We” being the British ex-pat Cypriot-asset owner seeking what we would call justice. Other nationalities are duped as well, but I’m not one of them.

    2) Exactly!

    3) The Arab Spring is already bearing the terrible fruit that generations of Foreign Office chaps have always feared: a rich, religiously extremist-orientated, un-influence-able Arab population. Hell, the governments the Arab Spring overthrew were all, more or less, supported by US to prevent such a development!

    4) No-one is allocating “doing nothing”, only not doing something completely ineffective.

    And if you truly believe that the MAIN point of the SBAs is to monitor the Middle East, you are woefully, woefully wrong.

    Let me give you a (weird) example.

    A friend of a friend used to run a minis (u12s) rugby club in Limassol. Last year, his team were invited to a minis tournament on one of the bases. Being Limassol, his team sheet, which needed to be submitted in advance for security reasons, included quite a few names from former Soviet Union countries. NONE OF THESE CHILDREN WERE PERMITTED ONTO THE BASE. Once they realised that this would mean there wouldn’t be enough players on the team, the children were allowed, but NO FORMER-SOVIET REPUBLIC ADULTS (parents, older siblings, guardians etc) were allowed to accompany them. All the kids had to be supervised AT ALL TIMES and their mobile phones, Ipads, anything that could record anything, were all taken away. I kid thee not.

    The air facilities at Akrotiri, the Reserve Infantry Battalions at Dhekali and Episkopi are completely unimportant compared to the listening post facilities at Agia Nik who do virtually nothing other than SPY ON RUSSIA. Cyprus is at the centre of the Cold War (which we all thought was over). The Cypriot government knows this and uses it to their advantage.

    5) “If our citizens have been duped into supporting local corruption”.

    Please see above references to the Arab Spring. In all the now-liberated countries, the reformist liberals have been beaten into the shadows (physically as well as metaphorically) by the hard-line fundamentalists.

    6) “the UK Government is prepared to sit on their buns and do absolutely nothing to protect it’s citizens”

    From death, absolutely. From losing a few quid, ABSOLUTELY NOT!

    Have you heard of the case of the island of Diego Garcia? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depopulation_of_Diego_Garcia). British citizens were forcibly evicted to make way for (ta-raaa!): An American base!

    We are masters in realpolitik. I used to live in a middle-Eastern country where the Sunni minority, the Sultan of which was an old Etonian, dontchaknow, (now desperately clinging to power by importing foreign troops) used to regularly go into the majority Shia villages and beat them; pacification tactics learned from US.

    Remember the Lord Palmerston quote: “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.” If the permanent interest of the British Government is to protect the greater good, even at the financial expense of some of its citizens, this is what will happen and this is how we’ve helped maintain a modicum of order:- not by being nice but by seeing the wider picture. Frankly, the loss-making British property investor in Cyprus is not part of that wider picture.

    It is not a question of glass half full or half empty, but eyes open or shut. Unless of course, anything you’ve seen over the last say 4 years in Cyprus points otherwise…

  • Richard says:

    @OddJobBob “we are on a hiding to nothing here”.

    Two quick questions if I may?

    1) Who exactly is “we” ?

    2) If membership of the EU is totally useless as a means of helping resolve this – er, why bother with it?

    Sovereign bases. OK – massive change is coming into the Middle East – much of the old order is/has gone. I’ve no idea if the ‘Arab spring’ will make things any better or worse – but the world is changing.

    Doing nothing as a result of monitoring ancient Arab conflicts is rather last century surely?

    And if all our citizens have been duped into propping up local corruption – and the UK Government is prepared to sit on their buns and do absolutely nothing to protect it’s citizens in the face of that – then we’ll soon be living in a world where it’s every man, woman & child for themselves.

    If that’s the case – top investment share tip: Beretta and Kalashnikov!

    Me – I’d prefer to stay a little more ‘glass half full’ – if that’s all the same…

  • Odd_Job_Bob says:

    Denton,

    Pursuing a policy that has no hope of succeeding is not an option.

    As mentioned many times before, the only reason the Cyprus government are introducing any (completely ineffectual) changes to the housing market at all is because their property developer mates are struggling, due to lack of sales.

    We thus increase the pressure on them.

    Lots of people are now shouting from the rooftops, telling the world how corrupt Cyprus is. Many subscribers are informing Russian and Chinese and even Martian (I made that bit up: surprised, eh?) potential investors to steer clear. Many other people have removed all the assets from Cyprus that they can and spend as little here as possible; make the place a no-go area before any gas and oil revenues start to come in and the government will crack. This is what we have to do.

    They’ll then borrow from the EU (which they’re in the process of doing anyway) then not conform to any of the conditions and try to broker a deal with the Russians for more money. At that point the Americans will fear for the future of the SBAs and send the (probably Turkish) troops in.

    Much later, in order to re-attract investors here, a totally new regime MAY give some consideration to those of us who had immovable property here but were robbed. Call it Bushwhacking (American Civil War), Werewolf Resistance (WWII) or simply Scorched Earth tactics (pick a war, any war!): that’s the only option that will bear any, even though very meagre, fruit at all.

    Alternatively, we can wait and hope the government realise they are killing the Golden Goose and, under EU pressure, decide to treat us fairly.

    Hah hah hah hah hah….

  • Denton Makrell says:

    @all. I recall past posts referring to the state, sector and institutionally backed corruption here as ‘sovereign corruption’, which goes beyond the scope of both the EU and UNCAC definitions (petty and grand corruption, having limited scopes) and the limited Wikipedia definition.

    Quis custodiet custodes? Answer: no one. Politics is and always will be a dirty business and no less so in the EU Commission. But, what other recourse is open unless one throws in the towel?

  • Odd_Job_Bob says:

    From the Transparency International website: “CORRUPTION IS THE ABUSE OF ENTRUSTED POWER FOR PRIVATE GAIN. IT HURTS EVERYONE WHO DEPENDS ON THE INTEGRITY OF PEOPLE IN A POSITION OF AUTHORITY”

    I am certainly NOT saying every country is corrupt, nor am I saying that any country or organisation is completely clean. Have a look at the Corruption Perception Index (http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2011/results/). Cyprus scores a creditable 30th out of 182, which those with personal experience of the place would find hard to believe. Some say Cyprus would have scored worse, but they bribed the Transparency International officials…

    The most important thing about the little video they show is when they say this: “The highest levels of corruption are in countries plagued by conflict and poverty. Corruption doesn’t just fuel such problems, it makes them very difficult to stop.”

    Without wishing to justify the tremendous amounts of “fleece the foreigner” scams Cyprus is becoming well known for, for geo-political reasons (which probably seemed a good idea at the time), the country of Cyprus was ripped apart and the livid scar of the Green Line is thrust, on a daily basis in every national newspaper you can find, again and again, into the consciousness of anyone who can read. If I had lost my home, my business, my livelihood, plus family members in an outrageous piece of gunboat diplomacy, would I really be that bothered about a bunch of foreigners – by some strange quirk of fate the VERY SAME NATION who could have stopped the tanks rolling in – who’ve got themselves on the wrong end of a scam?

    We are on a hiding to nothing here, for the very same geo-political reasons and need to pick our fights carefully. There are things we can do (alot of which is being done already but will still ultimately lead to us losing our assets here), but backing the EU (who, if there were an organisational Corruption Index, would have won back to back world records!) is certainly not it.

    And yes, the ECHR is meaningless.

  • Janner says:

    If Odd_Job_Bob and others are right it means there will never be justice. If entire systems, countries and the EU are corrupt then how is anything ever resolved? Will Cyprus be able to have their own definition on what a NPL is? Will they be able to carry on with the title deed situation as it is?

    If this is the case then we all may as well give up and roll over. I for one, do not want to believe that every organisation is corrupt. I do not see how the world can operate if every official, department, government, politician is corrupt as everything will be distorted beyond comprehension.

    A lack of consistency and blatant breaches of laws/rules would eventually lead to anarchy and social/economical collapse.

    As for countries being able to pick and chose which EU laws they wish to implement. If this is correct why bother having a ECHR as it is meaningless.

  • Steve says:

    Well, it’s my turn to have a guess and I say it’s the non-conformance of Cyprus in applying the Unfair Commercial Practices law by denying that it applies to property and that it is retrospective. The EU knows Cyprus well in terms of breaches of EU laws and regulations. The EU tried fines in the past, but now knows that Cyprus just pays the fines, so I will guess further that they are trying negotiation this time. If an agreement is concluded, they will find that Cyprus signs the agreement then just ignores it.

    Finally, I smell some wishful thinking on title deeds here. It will help very few aspiring owners to receive a tainted title deed and that is what I fear most would be getting from any accelerated programme. Be careful what you wish for……

  • John Swift says:

    Let us hope that they insist on getting the required info.

    “But this is Cyprus” belongs in the history books.

  • Adrian says:

    No surprises there then!! the government wants time to get well away before the blast of the reveal, then Europe will know the devious bunch that they are expected to bail out.

  • Stuart says:

    The trouble is that the “amicable solution” described here may prove to be just another cosy compromise between the EU and the RoC but of little benefit to the hundreds of victims of the chronic corruption that pervades the indigenous property industry.

  • Odd_Job_Bob says:

    For the love of Mike, where on earth are people’s heads at on this?

    As it’s quite clear that no-one listens to me (don’t blame them really), I shall use the words of others to re-iterate my point:

    I know that: “Desperation is the raw material of drastic change.” (William S. Burroughs), but I believe that allowing that to cloud our judgement on what’s possible and what is not is a mistake.

    ‘Primacy of EU law has existed since we joined the Union [but] European law only takes precedence where member states have agreed Europe should have a competence.’ – Tony Blair, 2004.

    So countries can choose the EU laws they want, when they feel like it.

    So, which countries are more likely to implement the EU laws they agreed to?

    From a Scandinavian Political Studies, Bind 21 (New Series) (1998) 3 study document: (http://tidsskrift.dk/index.php/scandinavian_political_studies/article/view/13358/25461 )

    “political culture and the design of political institutions in the member states had the most significant impact on implementation behaviour. Countries with a high level of trust and political stability combined with efficient and flexible political institutions had the most success in implementing European policies.”

    OK, ok, if, after having chosen which laws to obey, only the “good” countries have any chance of actually obeying them, do they actually implement them?

    “Members of the European Parliament recently commissioned a study to compare the recommendations from 2011 and 2012. The results were sobering: “In many countries, even in Germany, hardly anything was implemented,” says Sven Giegold, an MEP for the Green Party.” http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/eu-attempts-to-get-tougher-on-rule-enforcement-at-risk-of-failing-a-860038.html

    Conclusion: There is more chance of a non-drug injecting salmon winning the Tour de France than of Cyprus adhering to any EU ruling on the Great Cyprus Loan Fraud (or anything else, really). No such ruling will ever materialise anyway as the EU is simply not interested.

    Why?

    Apart from the fact that they are totally incompetent, unwieldy, corrupt, (I was going to research the links but you can do that, if you can be bothered), the FUNDAMENTAL thing about Cyprus, that you really should not be living here if you do not get, is this: It’s ALL about the Sovereign Base Areas.

    We, the Brits, nor the EU, nor Nato, nor the Americans, will do anything to upset the ROC and thus jeopardise the bases.

    Don’t believe me? You just wait to see, over the coming months, how many “spontaneous” demonstrations outside the bases are organised by Greek Cypriot citizens at their outrage of the 100 sq miles of turf being inhabited by a foreign power. This will be the government’s sabre rattling, reminding us all that they have the trump card so should be allowed to get up to whatever they like, which they surely will anyway.

    Our only hope of change is that the Christofias’ regime goes too far and threatens the existence of the bases, in which case we (or rather the Americans, via the Turks) will move in again (shades of ’74 and all that). Not too sure this’ll exactly help us though…

    In the meantime, the second part to the Burroughs’ quote goes like this:

    “(in order to escape from the desperation and to instigate drastic change)… only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.”

  • steve says:

    As usual this will be swept under the carpet and nobody will follow it up. Just keep putting people off and people get fed up and accept it. Its the same with the title deeds.

  • Mike says:

    Am I the only one who is not surprised one little bit with the lack of forthcoming information.

    Following a life in Business, dealing with officials, government departments, quango’s and generally attempting to remain on the legal side of my affairs I have drawn the conclusion that the general public, in spite of all the rhetoric and freedom of information perceptions, are generally kept in the dark and away from any kind of information which may prove to be an embarrassment if investigated. Yes we may receive answers, sometimes pages long, many of which say absolutely nothing or that the request is outside the jurisdiction of the authority assuming we hear back at all.

    My belief is that they have no clue whatsoever in how to deal with the issue in an effective way and as a consequence it remains in limbo or ‘under consultation’ as seems to be a common reply.

    We must remember that addressing some problems, as in this case the Cyprus property problem, could very well bankrupt nations beyond any means of future recovery which is not an option.

    In the meantime we will be kept in the dark and fed on manure so that the gravy train can continue to roll.

  • MARTYN says:

    High level Cloak & Dagger stuff here, hopefully signalling that Troika provoked investigations into the whole Property, Title, Legal, Banking and linked likely corruption aspects and their (Troika) imposition of (fairly) urgent Remedials are at the root of all this.

    Hopefully further background to all this will become clearer by 12th November, the date when it has been suggested Cyprus’s request for Bail-Outs needs to be determined, agreed.

    Maybe, given all the long-term ‘Duckin n Divin’ that’s been going on re all this for years, I am over-using the word ‘hopefully…….

    But ‘hopefully’ not!’

  • pete says:

    As usual with anything to do with Cyprus, too many questions and not enough answers.

  • Costas Apacket says:

    Perhaps the EU are stalling in the hope that the RoC agrees to the request, apparently made by the Troika, to ensure that all currently outstanding Title Deeds are issued by the fourth quarter of 2013?

    Or maybe it’s because they don’t want to embarrass Catastrofias whilst the RoC hold the rotating Presidency, or maybe it’s something to do with the hydrocarbon licences, but even so, this still leaves questions unanswered such as:

    What pre-infringement proceedings have been started by the EU against Cyprus in regard to Immovable Property and what infringements do these concern?

    What stage have these proceedings reached?

    If such pre-infringement proceedings have been started, why is information about these not available to EU Citizens?

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