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The Orams Case Enforcement of Decisions in the UK relating to Property in Cyprus

The enforcement in the UK of a judgment delivered by a court of another EU country is controlled by the Brussels Convention on Jurisdiction and Enforcement of Judgments.

In the case of Linda and David Orams, the lawyer for Meletis Apostolides, the original Greek Cypriot owner of the land upon which Mr and Mrs Orams have built their house, has obtained an order from the Nicosia District Court in South Cyprus, which is now an EU country, ordering the Orams to demolish the house and pay compensation.

Due to the fact that the South Cyprus administration does not have control over the Northern part of the island, it is not possible for this judgment to be enforced against the Orams directly in Northern Cyprus - the Orams cannot directly be prevented from using/enjoying this property and cannot be forced to demolish it. Instead, the lawyer for Mr Meletis Apostolides is seeking to rely on the Brussels Convention to enforce the judgment against the Orams and their assets in the UK.

The Brussels Convention provides, as a basic principle, that any court judgment given in any EU country must be recognised in all other EU countries. However, the Convention also provides certain restricted grounds upon which a court can deny the judgment recognition. The most important of these grounds is the so-called public policy ground. If the UK courts decide it would be against public policy to recognise the judgment in the UK, there can be no enforcement in the UK. It is the opinion of the firm that this ground should and most likely will be applied in this case and the application for recognition of the judgment of the Greek Cypriot court will be struck out by the UK courts.
Given the complex political situation in Northern Cyprus, it can be argued that a solution to the property issues cannot be achieved on a case by case basis. To permit such a judgment to be recognised and enforced, would be to undermine the whole effort of the United Nations attmepts to reunite Cyprus and solve the political issues as a whole. Such a decision would be a green light for all Greek and Turkish Cypriots alike to claim compensation on an individual basis and then seek to enforce this decision in the courts of other countries. This case by case approach will serve only to complicate the factors dividing the island, leaving some property disputes settled while others remain unresolved. Moreover, since enforcement can only be obtained in the event that the defendants are domiciled in an EU country, it will be mainly non-Cypriot users of disputed land who are singled out i.e. British and other EU citizens, leading to arbitrary and discriminatory results. Finally, the Orams, who purchased the property in good faith for a legitimate purpose and who are entitled to obtain a title deed recognised as valid and constitutionally protected under the laws of the TRNC, cannot and should not be singled out for the result of a political situation which is entirely beyond their control.

Naomi Mehmet LLB

Gurkan and Gurkan 

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