By Stefanos Evripidou
IF THE cycle of applications and decisions at the Immoveable Property Commission (IPC) in the north continues at the same pace, the IPC could finish with all occupied Greek Cypriot properties in 96 years, said commission chairman Gungor Gunkan.
Speaking to online news portal GAZETE360, Gunkan said that all Greek Cypriot properties in the north could become Turkish through the IPC in under a century but at great financial cost.
The IPC chief noted the increasing number of applications by Greek Cypriot property owners to the IPC.
First, the original property owners would visit the IPC, he said, but now that they are dying off, their inheritors have started coming. Young and middle-aged Greek Cypriots are saying they do not even know where their property is and are only interested in taking the money and leaving, said Gunkan.
As of last Monday, 5,399 applications were lodged with the IPC, of which 437 were concluded through friendly settlements and ten through formal hearing.
The IPC has so far paid GBP £138,593,591 to the applicants as compensation, a sum considered by many Greek Cypriots as extraordinarily low for the amount of land involved.
It has ruled for exchange and compensation in two cases, for restitution in one case and for restitution and compensation in five cases.
In one case it has delivered a decision for restitution after the settlement of the Cyprus problem, and in one case it has ruled for partial restitution.
Asked whether these properties will be considered Turkish properties in the peace talks, Gunkan replied: “They are becoming Turkish.”
He further explained that the properties for which the IPC gives compensation will no longer be considered as Greek Cypriot property.
“I believe that we, this commission, will have a great influence here on the issue of territory and property,” said Gukan.
“According to a proportional calculation we have made, I am saying it as plain logic, if things go the way they are, we found that we will finish this job in 96 years.
“However, this is an enormous financial burden. Certainly, it cannot continue like this. I hope that the Cyprus problem will be solved with a political solution,” he added.
Gunkan told the news portal that 671 applications, which have yet to be examined, concern properties in the fenced off city of Famagusta (Varosha), controlled by the Turkish military.
According to the IPC head, Varosha property owners who apply are told that the status of the ghost town will be decided as part of a comprehensive solution of the Cyprus problem, implying that these cases will not be given the same treatment as others.
Human rights lawyers like Achilleas Demetriades have previously called on Varosha refugees to apply en masse to the IPC, arguing that the commission set up by Turkey to stem the flow of Greek Cypriot applications to the European Court of Human Rights would have no justification in not granting return of the property. He highlighted that no Turkish Cypriots or settlers are currently occupying the frozen in time town, which remains in the full control of the Turkish army.
The increasing number of Greek Cypriot applicants to the IPC is a matter of serious concern to the government and parliament, particularly as a new round of peace talks are about to start.
However, with the near collapse of the banking system in March and continuing economic recession, neither the executive nor legislature have come up with any feasible measures to stem the flow of Greek Cypriot refugees to the IPC.