The European Court of Human Rights and the Cyprus Property Issue

PRIO Paper

Williams, Rhodri & Ayla Gürel (2011) The European Court of Human Rights and the Cyprus Property Issue, PRIO Cyprus Centre Paper. Nicosia: PRIO Cyprus Centre.

Since 1995, the European Court of Human Rights has frequently ruled on property claims arising due to the Cyprus problem. Taken as a whole, the resulting judgments have served to establish parameters that should inform any  viable resolution of the Cyprus property issue.

The Court’s rulings are not meant to resolve the property issue. However, they do effectively define a set of objective legal norms that any negotiated solution compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights would be expected to satisfy.

The agreed objective of the ongoing Cyprus negotiations is reunification on a bizonal basis. The italicized terms represent a compromise between competing visions of an appropriate Cyprus solution: the Greek Cypriots have long favoured a unitary state while the Turkish Cypriots have typically sought to maintain the distinctive identity of their numerically smaller community. These visions, which would need to be reconciled in any viable solution to the Cyprus problem, are rooted in the two communities’ contradictory perceptions of the post-1974 split.

In this context, the Court’s judgments do no more – and no less – than to exclude the more extreme aspects of the proposals that have been put forward by the two sides. As a result these judgments delineate only the outer parameters of an acceptable solution. Within these parameters there remains much space for political negotiations to arrive at a mutually acceptable compromise.


Ayla Gürel

Ayla Gürel

Senior Research Consultant