Letter from Jan Moerkerke, new ELRA President

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May 16, 2017 /

Dear Colleagues,

First of all I want to express, on behalf of the new board and myself, our gratitude for being elected by the General Assembly.

My special thanks to the former President, Mr. Lewis, who hands over today a strengthened organization. So, I think we will do a good job if we first continue the work that has already been started. I also want to thank the members of the Board, especially Jorge and Mihai who leave the Board. We will miss them.

Lately, through CROBECO and especially through the Imola project, ELRA has succeeded to become an active and respected player in the field of Property registration on a European Level. Just last week the EC informed us that the IMOLA II project got a very positive evaluation report. It can only improve that perception.

We also can look at a still increasing number of members (32 associations from 24 member states and Turkey. Today we are very happy to welcome Malta as a new member.  Unfortunately Brexit may have consequences for our organization as we move forward.

One of the aims of ELRA is to form a network where professionals help to facilitate cross-border transactions. We do that by trying to understand the various systems and by sharing information, by developing tools. Of course we are mainly focussed on the countries of the European Union. But regardless of the membership in the future, people will continue to buy properties all over Europe, perhaps even more so. Professionals in non-Member States will also need help when facing problems with cross-border transactions.
So I think we have to consider a modification of our statutes, offering the possibility of keeping as many European countries on board as possible. Nevertheless we have to keep in mind that membership of the European Union will remain the basis of full membership and voting rights.
We also cannot see the number of members as a given fact. The organization can only remain successful if, not only the Board, but all members actively take part in the activities. In that way membership remains interesting for all members. Our association certainly should maintain an open attitude and every voice should be able to be heard.

If we want to remain healthy as an organisation we also have to pay attention to the financial situation. Until now our activities have been funded substantially by the EU, for which we are very grateful. Lately the EU demands a stable financial situation, which cannot be assured by only one of our organizations! This situation already has consequences in a reduced pre-payment of our grants and it finally might result in cessation of subsidies, which would be a catastrophe!
So we have to ask all our members to take financial responsibility. That is why, accordingly to the statutes of ELRA, we rather urgently want to improve this situation by introducing a membership fee.  This does not mean that we shouldn’t take into account the financial capacity of each member. In the coming months, practical action will be taken. I want to express my gratitude to the General assembly for accepting the relevant proposal of the Board.

As a Board we also have to make efforts to ensure that the congresses we organize remain interesting for all our members. We also should encourage the representatives to participate actively in the conferences and projects. We might reward them for that, perhaps by delivering certificates after following training programs or attendance at conferences. It could strengthen the perception of quality of the event and might be a personal incentive since it would be interesting for CV’s as well.

We also have to be open to new technologies, always taking into account our mission. The technology itself can only be a help to serve the main goal, providing legal security to citizens in real estate matters. In fact our main concern is the private legal side. That is what makes ELRA so special.

On a European level there are different organisations active in the field of collecting data and giving publicity on transitions of immovable property. However, a majority of them is concerned with the cadastral side of the matter. Although names of national organizations may be confusing, the theory is that a cadastre collects and indexes information mainly in service of public authorities, informing them for tax reasons or for framing policy. A land registry is there in service of the public to ensure legal security and publicity in transactions involving real rights. Although they often use the same data, we must keep in mind that difference.

We have to strengthen our relationship with other private and public organizations working in the field, mainly within the European Union, where our voice should be heard as the defender of legal security for the citizen.

We also should make the same efforts onwards organizations representing the main clients of land registries. I think among others we should be present and be able to express our concerns at events of the Council of Notaries of the European Union, the European Mortgage Federation, la Chambre Européenne des Huissiers de Justice.

It is even more important for ELRA to keep in close contact with EU bodies and influence their decisions. In the recent past we have proved to be a trustworthy partner for the EU in the very challenging project of Land Registers interconnection (LRI) of the European Commission, where our expertise is certainly appreciated. The achievements of Imola I, merely on an academical level, are used as a model for the more elaborate IT solution which is to be implemented in the E- justice portal. I think this cooperation is perfectly in line with our vision, which is to ensure a broader legal and organizational input in IT projects by offering our expertise.  This certainly goes on a European level but we also might consider helping national organizations in this field, if our capacity allows it.

Furthermore we have good hope to be able to launch the Imola II project soon, as a next step in our cooperation with the LRI project. It will focus especially on semantics, a very important issue for LRI as well.

I also think that we not only must try to keep in contact with EU bodies and professional organizations but also strengthen the link to universities and academic institutions. I am sure there are a lot of opportunities for cross- pollination between our world of legal practitioners and the academic world. We have already seen before that academic input on the occasion of former congresses was always very instructive. Furthermore I also am sure that our expertise as legal practitioners could be very interesting for students working in the field of land registration.
So, dear members, I hope I have convinced you all that there is a lot of work to be done in the next two years. On behalf of the Board I want to say that we will do whatever is in our power to achieve these goals. And we ask you kindly to help us with that, as much as possible.

Brussels, 11 May 2017
Jan Moerkerke