LAST month the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Defence of the Interests of British Property Owners in Cyprus held its first meeting, at the House of Commons.
The Group was set up by Bill Cash MP and others, prompted by the accounts they had heard from constituents of their problems over buying property in Cyprus.
About 30 people, purchasers, lawyers, MP’s and researchers met to share their information and frustrations, and to consider what could be done to resolve their problems. The Group had invited David Lidington and me to explain what the British Government can do to support them.
Some of the individual stories we heard about were very distressing: people who had invested life savings in buying a home in Cyprus, and now found themselves with no house, no money, and large and growing debts. We also get frequent calls at the High Commission from British citizens caught up in such cases. It must feel like a nightmare to live through. Not surprisingly, people in that sort of trap look for help.
Many of them are now engaged in legal action, against the developers who sold them their properties, or the banks who lent them money, or other actors involved.
The government cannot take over all these private legal cases for them, and it’s not where we can add best value. But it was certainly useful to hear from some of those concerned, and from the lawyers working with them, about some of the avenues they are pursuing. We will be discussing these further with them.
So if we can’t help with individual legal cases, what can we do? Three kinds of thing:
- We prepare and disseminate information on how to do property business in Cyprus: tips on what to do or not do, questions to ask, where to seek advice. We work on this closely with organisations such as Cyprus Property Action Group, PICAS, Cyprus Property News.
- We take up with the authorities here generic problems in the way the processes work, whether it be the Land Registry, the courts, the banking sector or wherever. These issues are often on my agenda when I call on Cypriot Ministers, for instance. And we do have some impact: it was good, for instance, to see that the Cypriot Foreign Minister Kasoulides acknowledged the problem in his recent speech in London in April when he spoke to Parliament.
- We look for specific ways in which we may be able to help Cyprus tackle some of these problems of process. The new government’s commitment to modernising and simplifying government processes, and the undertakings in its Memorandum of Understanding with the Troika, may create some specific openings.
So it remains an important part of the overall service we offer to British citizens in Cyprus. The APPG session was an important reminder for me of the human stories that are the reason why it matters to do the best we can.
High Commissioner to Cyprus