January 1, 2015 / Ioanna Tzinieri
Land Registrar, On behalf of the Board of the Greek Land Registrars Association.
Land Registries constitute the authority responsible for land registration in Greece. Land Registries were created in in 1853, shortly after the formation of the in 1830. They are and always have been considered as a judicial institution and, therefore, they fall under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice.
The vast majority of Land Registries are organized as independent offices with territorial jurisdiction. The Land Registrar, who is by law a conveyancer holding a judicial office (just as a lawyer or a notary), is personally responsible for managing the office and the staff, performing the legal control of the presented acts, conducting the registrations and maintaining the archives. A small number of Land Registries, however, mainly in big municipalities are organized as public services within the Ministry of Justice and are to this day run by the State. In these offices both the Registrar and the personnel are public servants and liability against third parties for any damages caused by erroneous registrations or information lies totally with the State. At present there are 398 Land Registry offices all over , among which 17 are public offices, 240 are independent so-called “special” Land Registries and 141 are independent “non-special” registries, mainly in smaller areas or in small islands, where a local notary also acts as registrar.
Land Registries are also categorized depending on whether the area which falls under their competence is covered by the Cadastre or not. The Cadastre was introduced in in 1995. According to the cadastral law (law 2664/1998), after the completion of the land surveys the competent Land Registry is converted into an “interim Cadastral Office”. Given that the land surveys did not start simultaneously for the entire territory of the country, this transition from one system to the other takes place progressively. Along these lines 103 Land Registries around the country operate, partially or entirely, as interim Cadastral Offices.
Thus, there are currently two systems in force relating to land registration in : (a) traditional Land Registries, which operate a person-based system (system of registrations and mortgages) and (b) interim Cadastral Offices which function under a property-based system (cadastral system). Both systems are operated by the existing Land Registries which have been proven to be perfectly capable to adjust to the new cadastral system situation and to even improve it by performing a big part of the corrections needed.
The present study includes a brief description of the system of registrations and mortgages (I) as well as the cadastral system (II). However, the emphasis is placed upon the transition from one system to the other and the implications it has so far entailed (III).
I. SYSTEM OF REGISTRATIONS AND MORTGAGES
Traditional Land Registries function under the system of registrations and mortgages which is a person-based deeds system. The Napoleonic Civil Code and its provisions on the system of “conservation des hypothèques”, served as a model for the introduction of this system in in the middle of the 19th century.
The principal functions of the Land Registry are: a) to register deeds relating to property rights (notarial deeds, court decisions, administrative acts) according to the principle of publicity governing, under the Greek law, all transactions on real estate, and b) to provide information on legal rights and limitations existing on immovable property.
The system of registrations and mortgages, as a person-based system, implies that all registrations are being made under the name of the owner/beneficiary of the property rights in personal folios existing in the Land Registry. The property must be described in the deed in detail (address, boundaries, surface etc.). However the boundaries are not conclusive neither are they guaranteed by any other authority.
The Greek Civil Code provides for the general conditions under which a deed is registrable in the Land Registry. Special laws also provide for the registration of specific categories of acts. As a general rule, a deed is registrable when it creates, modifies, transfers or abolishes property rights on an immovable property. Other contractual agreements valid inter partes involving the use of land are not, in principle, subject to registration, unless the law stipulates otherwise.
Registration in the Land Registry is a precondition in order for the transaction to produce legal effects erga omnes. In this sense registration has substantive force. The principles of priority and publicity constitute the fundamental principles of the system. The Land Registrar performs a legal control of the presented deed and decides whether the latter meets the criteria set by law in order for it to be registered and to produce legal effects. In case the Land Registrar decides that the deed should not be registered, he/she rejects the deed within the next 24 hours by means of a written
justified act subject to a court appeal by the interested party. Once registered, deeds are book-bound and stored in the Land Registry. All Land Books exist in paper form and up to date only the general indexes and the personal folios are kept in parallel electronically.
Registrations are made upon payment of special registration fees prescribed by law. Depending on the type of the deed to be registered there are fixed fees and proportional fees with reference to the value of the transaction. It must be noted that even in independent Land Registries, where the Land Registrar is personally responsible to cover all functional expenses of the office, including the salaries of the personnel, only a part of the fees paid constitute the Registrar’s remuneration. The biggest part of the registration fees paid in Land Registries are due to the State, the Registry thus acting as a sort of “tax collector” on behalf of the State.
Any interested person may obtain information from the Land Registry without having to prove specific legitimate interest. Upon request and after the legal fee has been paid, the Registrar issues certified copies of the registered acts, as well as a series of certificates. The certificates are issued in paper form, since so far the law has not provided for electronic issuance and signature of the certificates. Apart from the certified information one can obtain from the Land Registries, there is also the possibility for on-the-spot queries.
In independent Land Registries, the Registrar bears full and personal civil and penal responsibility against third parties for any damages caused by wrongful registration or inaccurate information provided by him/herself or any member of the Land Registry’s staff. In addition he/she also bears disciplinary responsibility and is subject to control by the competent Public Prosecutor.
II. CADASTRAL SYSTEM
As already mentioned, in areas where the cadastral surveys have been completed and cadastral data exist for the region, the competent Land Registry operates as interim Cadastral Office under a property-based registration system. Registrations are made on cadastral database provided by the National Cadastre and Mapping Agency S.A. (NCMA S.A). The land books kept in the Land Registry serve as archives. This conversion of the system in place has not entailed so far any institutional change of the Land Registries. Land Registries and Cadastre remain
different institutions and are under the supervision of different ministries (the former are under the Ministry of Justice and the latter under the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change). NCMA S.A. is a public company whose main role is to conduct the land surveys and provide spatial and legal information on property.
The two institutions are not integrated, but the law provides for the future establishment of permanent Cadastral Offices under NCMA , without, however, defining the time or the process of the transition in detail. At present NCMA S.A. is the provider of the cadastral digital database, but all registrations of property rights and corrections of initial cadastral registrations are made by the Land Registries under the personal responsibility of the Land Registrar and the assistance of his/her personnel.
The basic functions of the Cadastral Office coincide with those of a traditional Land Registry; to perform the registration of deeds and to provide information on property. However, given that the initial registrations of the cadastral database very often need to be corrected, the Registrar in the Cadastral Office is additionally responsible to perform corrections of the initial cadastral registrations.
The cadastral system is a property-based deeds system. All registrations are made in the centralized digital database, the Hellenic Cadastre IT System (SPEK) created and maintained by NCMA S.A. SPEK includes both spatial and legal information. Legal information is updated with the registration of deeds by the Cadastral Office, whereas the update of spatial information (cadastral diagrams) is performed directly by the Division of Cadastral Maps of NCMA S.A.
Registration in the Cadastral Office does not differ substantially from the one followed in a traditional Land Registry Office. In general terms it is the registration procedure that changes and not the substantive rules governing registration under the Greek Civil Code and the relevant special laws.
Indicatively the most significant differences relating to the registration procedure are the following:
The application for registration is always accompanied by the “cadastral diagram extract”, which depicts the property referred to in the deed and contains its unique cadastral number (KAEK).
The legal control prescribed in the cadastral law is more extensive compared to the one performed in a traditional Land Registry Office. It concerns not only the formal
legality of the deed but also its substantive legality. In this sense, it is guaranteed that the person registered as the beneficiary of a property right has indeed such quality (principle of legality of deeds). The law provides for a five day period within which the Land Registrar may deny registration of a deed, the refusal being always subject to an appeal in court.
In case the registrable deed effects a spatial change (i.e. consolidation or subdivision of parcels), the applicant needs to have previously filed an application to the Cadastral Office and obtained a cadastral survey diagram of the properties which will be altered. Assisted by a surveyor/engineer the applicant can depict these changes in accordance with the provisions of the law and the instructions of NCMA S.A. A special procedure is also prescribed in the law in cases of acts effecting spatial changes of a larger scale.
In addition to the fees paid in Land Registries, for registrations in Cadastral Offices the law provides for a special fee proportionate to the value of the deed which is due to NCMA S.A.
Information in Cadastral Offices is provided either by means of certificates issued by the Land Registrar or by means of on-the-spot queries. Even though the cadastral digital database (SPEK) is centralized, up to this date the law does not provide for on-line access to information.
Regarding the correction of initial cadastral registrations, the latter are those appearing in the cadastral book as transferred from the cadastral tables, after the completion of the cadastral land survey in a specific region. Every posterior registration of a property right is based upon the initial registrations.
In case of an inaccurate initial registration, the law provides for the possibility to dispute and correct it partially or entirely within specific time periods, which are the following: 5 years starting from the date when the Cadastral Office began operating for citizens living in Greece and 7 years for the Greek and Greek citizens living abroad. The deadline, however, for Cadastral Offices operating before 2006 is set by law to 12 and 14 years depending on whether the citizen lives in Greece or abroad or the beneficiary is the Greek State.
The correction procedure differs depending on the type of the error of the initial registration. Thus, the law distinguishes between the cases which require an unappealable judicial decision and the ones that are due to a so-called “obvious error”
and can be corrected by means of a decision issued by the Registrar without judicial intervention.
After the lapse of the above mentioned periods within which the correction of the initial registrations is possible, the latter are presumed to be correct, the presumption being non-rebuttable. As for properties flagged in the cadastral book as belonging to an “unknown owner”, they are considered State-owned and only compensation in money is possible.
III. TRANSITION TO THE CADASTRAL SYSTEM – IMPLICATIONS
Land Registries in Greece have been operating for a very long time under the system of registrations and mortgages. It has been proven to be a reliable system that satisfied the need for secure, up-to-date and certified information safeguarding property rights of Greek and foreign citizens as well as public property. Indisputably, there was a need to modernize the system, by digitizing the archives and introducing electronic services, which are not available at the moment and by providing spatial data on immovable property. In this sense the cadastral system presents, in principle, significant advantages relating to its property-centered character (as searches are possible not only by name of the beneficiary but also by property), to the existence of a central digital database on country level and to the geographical information of the property available in Cadastral Offices.
However, instead of modernizing and evolving the existing system, developing in parallel a Cadastre to serve purposes such as taxation, urban planning etc., and progressively combining the two institutions, it was opted to create a whole new land registration system practically from scratch. The Cadastre was designed with the aim not only to undertake the mapping of the national territory but also to administrate legal information on land. Thus, the survey proceedings were mainly connected to a re-registration of property rights based on citizens’ declarations. The fact that there was already a land registration system in force functioning since the formation of the Greek State and protecting property rights was ignored and the legal value of the information in the Land Registries was significantly undermined.
The initial design of the cadastral project implied the coincidence of cadastral and legal boundaries with the aim to create an entirely new registry of property rights with “renewal of titles”. This task would be much more likely to succeed in a country with no previously registered titles of property rights or with no previous recognition of property rights whatsoever. did not belong to either of the two categories.
In this sense the Greek cadastral project is unique in its conception at least on European level; never before in a country which already possessed a land registration system had occurred such transition from a person-based to a property-based system by means of re-registration of already registered property rights based on citizens’ declarations of rights and not on information kept in the Land Registry.
The creation of a cadastre in Greece was elaborated on the basis of the coincidence of legal and physical boundaries, mainly on the initiative of the technical world of the country (engineers/surveyors). The latter undertook the task to survey Greece’s territory by recording property rights from the beginning and matching them to specific properties on cadastral diagrams. Land Registries were practically kept out of the surveying procedure and the prevailing legal dimension of land registration was undermined. The law provided for a highly complex surveying procedure which has caused serious problems and entailed extreme costs for all stakeholders: citizens, the and the European Union who have been funding the project for decades.
III.1. Cadastral surveys and initial cadastral registrations
The land survey procedure was initially designed – and still evolves – as follows:
STAGE 1: SUBMISSION OF PROPERTY DECLARATIONS
Citizens were invited to make declarations of their property to contractors’ offices (Cadastral Survey Offices) upon payment of a fixed fee per right declared. They would mainly use copies of their titles and certificates of registration to accompany their declarations. In this sense, a paradox is obvious: land surveys did not involve the Land Registries as such but they did involve information from the Land Registries, since this information was needed, as the only legally valid, to establish property rights.
In the first phases of the project, the contractors processing these declarations had no legal training and background, which resulted in surveys of bad quality and significantly erroneous initial registrations on cadastral sheets. This situation resulted in turn in insecurity and legal uncertainty concerning real estate transactions in regions covered by the Cadastre. Greek Land Registrars had repeatedly proposed to participate in the procedure by performing the legal control of the declarations and cross-checking them with the information in the land books. However, these suggestions were never adopted.
One of the most important inherent problems of the project is that the declarations of rights are not necessarily based upon registered deeds which had produced legal effects. Thus it has often been the case that citizens would present false titles or titles not active anymore. One indicative example is declarations of rights based upon adverse possession; according to the law under the system of registration and mortgages in a traditional Land Registry, one would need a final court decision attributing ownership by means of adverse possession accompanied by a declaration of the relevant tax. However, in the land surveying procedure, one could just present an electricity bill or a simple unilateral notarial statement to justify ownership by means of adverse possession.
Another basic problem is that not everyone has declared his/her property rights for different reasons (e.g. living abroad, ignoring the procedure, age-related reasons etc.). This resulted in a situation where a significant part of properties are presented in the cadastral book as belonging to “unknown owner”. It must be noted that the State and all public entities were excluded from the obligation to declare their property; for the State declaration was optional. The initiators of the project obviously thought that there was no need for the State to declare property rights given that after the lapse of the time periods prescribed by the law, all properties flagged as belonging to “unknown owners” would be considered as State property! Anyone, especially legal professionals, can understand how problematic such an assumption may turn out to be if driven to a court room. It took almost 20 years for the cadastral law to change and its last amendment in 2013 obliges the to declare its property.
However, declarations based on false titles or adverse possession not judicially ascertained constitute the greatest danger for both private and public property rights. This re-registration procedure of property rights is likely to serve as an opportunity for some to declare property belonging to others as their own. The examples are already numerous even within the current slim percentage of the
cadastre’s coverage; State properties declared as private, obliging the Greek Sate to follow a judicial procedure to correct the false registrations. And vice versa; Greek State authorities declaring vast areas as public property controverting the legal owners’ property rights. The latter are obliged to challenge the erroneous registrations in court. According to the legislation currently in force, the burden of proof that lies upon the shoulders of the citizens in case of property claims against the State is practically unbearable; the affected citizen is obliged to prove that he/she, as well as his/her predecessors, have been legal owners since the year 1885!
Given that these cases only come to light once the erroneous registrations have been challenged, we are not in a position to know their actual number and extend. However, it is easily understood that the re-recording of property rights was not only unnecessary (since the vast majority of property rights were already recorded in the Land Registries) but also extremely dangerous.
STAGE 2: PRODUCTION OF CADASTRAL DATA
Based on the above declarations, the contractors connect the declared property rights to a specific property or properties, as the latter are defined and depicted on cadastral diagrams. This stage is the most critical since it results in the actual production of the cadastral data which are finally delivered to the Land Registry and constitute the initial cadastral registrations.
Practically the cadastral survey procedure consists of the matching of legal and cadastral boundaries. However, this matching has not been proven to be an easy task to accomplish. On the contrary, the depiction of immovable properties in the cadastral charts, especially in rural areas, has so far presented severe problems and errors (both legal and geometrical) and resulted in a very high number of objections.
Many complaints by citizens and local authorities were also filed before the Greek Ombudsman which concerned cases of extensive geometrical divergences of land parcels within the cadastral tables in areas such as the islands of Lesvos and Lefkada. The Ombudsman’s ascertainments relating to the highly problematic land survey procedures in the above regions were included in his annual report of 2010 and resulted in the launching of the so-called “property redefinition process” by a relevant amendment of the cadastral law. This process was practically a new land surveyand it is indicative of the high complexity of the entire project and of the questionable quality of the cadastral data in general.
STAGE 3: INITIAL CADASTRAL REGISTRATIONS DELIVERED TO THE LAND REGISTRY
The cadastral survey is completed once the cadastral data have been finalized and delivered to the competent Land Registry. The registrations appearing on the final cadastral tables constitute the initial registrations in the cadastral database and the Land Registry begins operating as (interim) Cadastral Office.
In the first years of function of Cadastral Offices, the Land Registrar had no authority to correct erroneous initial registrations, even if the correct and valid information was available in the land books. Citizens were obliged to appeal to Court even for minor corrections which entailed severe costs and time consumption for themselves and, of course, a significant increase of litigation for the courts. At the same time Registrars were repetitively asking for the amendment of the law in order to proceed to unjudicial corrections, while citizens were complaining to them on a daily basis about an extremely costly and slow procedure. The result was to undermine the trust of the citizens towards the cadastral project.
Consecutive amendments of the law permitted the corrections to be made by the Registrars in numerous cases. In this sense, it becomes obvious that the need for the interim Cadastral Office resulted from the fact that there was already a land registry organization in place to operate the system and more importantly to undertake full responsibility for registrations and corrections of the initial registration. It must be noted that according to the last amendment of the law, these corrections are made by the Registrar free of charge for the citizens (a fact that, to our regret, was “advertised” by NCMA S.A. as a service to citizens provided by NCMA S.A. itself, whereas all the legal work is conducted by the Land Registries themselves).
It must also be emphasized that the time periods within which according to the law corrections of initial registrations are possible, have not yet lapsed. Successive amendments of the law have so far extended these time periods for the first generations of land surveys (to reach 12 years), exactly because no one could guarantee the accuracy of the initial cadastral registrations. In this sense, we have not really seen the impact of the non-rebuttable presumption that the latter are correct.
This presumption has served as a pillar of the cadastral project. It is exactly this presumption which provides legal force to the initial cadastral registrations.
However, we, as legal professionals, consider that the non-rebuttable character of the presumption establishes a direct violation of both the Greek Constitution (art.17) and the European Convention of Human Rights (art. 1 of the 1st Additional Protocol) protecting the right on property. It is not acceptable that a person possessing a registered title in the Land Registry may lose his/her property right on the basis that it was not declared in the cadastral survey without being able to prove the contrary and to invoke the registration of the title. The case-law of the European Court of Human Rights in cases of similar nature provides a solid legal base of the above allegation.
An argument often used against the above opinion is that there is always the possibility of monetary compensation for any loss or damage suffered due to false initial registrations. This argument, however, is used by many without having previously answered a fundamental question: who is responsible for the compensations which will certainly be judicially claimed once the assumption comes into force? Is it NCMA S.A. and its contractors? Is it the Greek State? And can it afford such a responsibility in the midst of the current financial crisis?
III.2. Technical Assistance on Cadastre under Task Force for Greece
The high complexity of the cadastral project, as described above, has so far resulted in cadastral data for just 6,1% of the country almost 20 years after the introduction of the first cadastral law.
In view of this extremely slow progress of the cadastral project, a Technical Assistance Team (TA Team) on Cadastre was formed under the Task Force for Greece of the European Commission, with representatives of Cadastre Organizations (and not Land Registry Organizations) of different European Countries, namely the Netherlands, Austria, Italy and Spain. The purpose of the project is to define a framework for land administration, to create a detailed organizational business plan for NCMA and to support the latter in its mission to manage projects, especially for the completion of the Greek Cadastre. Along these lines, several workshops have already taken place and a draft Framework Report was communicated by the TA Team to all stakeholders involved.
The emphasis of the TA Team is placed upon organizational issues, whereas its assistance should primarily focus on the completion of the Cadastre itself. In repeated meetings and workshops the TA Team is already discussing about converting into
final Cadastral Offices under NCMA S.A., drastically diminishing the number of Land Registries, establishing a network of regional front desks run by other professionals such as notaries, upgrading the role of the notary and the surveyor in the future cadastral schema etc. However, the role of the Registrar and the legal aspect of land registration are systematically undervalued. The legal problems, which are significant and may prove to be insuperable, very often seem to be dealt with as mere “technicalities”.
Of course, Greek Land Registrars are not the only ones to express objections against the cadastral undertaking. Severe objections have also been expressed by the Hellenic Property Federation representing the owners of real estate property in Greece. The latter are complaining about various forms of violations of their property rights, caused by erroneous cadastral registrations, and also about a highly complicated and bureaucratic procedure of correcting these errors. In their written proposals towards the TA Team they also point out that there has never been a legal safety concern relating to the function of Land Registries in mainly because of the legal background of Land Registrars who have been safeguarding property rights for centuries. This safety is today at stake not only because of the inherent problems of the cadastral project, but also because of a recent amendment of the law abolishing the legal background of the Head of the Cadastral Offices. The TA Team has repeatedly stated that their approach is – and must be indeed – “user-centric”. In this sense it is very interesting to see how the users’ comments (the property owners’) are going to be incorporated in the TA Team’s final reports.
As a conclusion to the reference on the Technical Assistance project, the relevant suggestions focusing basically on the integration of Cadastral Offices in NCMA S.A., do not aim at the acceleration of the project, since fundamental questions remain unanswered (such as liability issues, organizational issues relating to the transition from the existing dual system – Land Registries/ Cadastre – to the proposed integrated organization etc). The adoption of the above suggestions is very likely to further complicate the situation by delaying the remaining surveys and increasing the already existing legal insecurity within a suffering land market. The integration, as it is proposed, at this very precocious stage of the project would constitute a mere “renaming” of the competent institutions (from interim to final Cadastral Offices) with absolutely no practical importance. It would be a simple
change of “labels” in order to give a false impression that the project is progressing. Taking also into account that after the recent amendment of the cadastral law, NCMA S.A. is additionally responsible for the forest mapping procedure, it is obvious that the managing and control of the Cadastral Offices is a non accessible task for NCMA S.A. at least for this moment, and certainly not before the surveying of the rest of the country’s territory is completed.
That said, we are currently in anticipation of the TA Team’s final suggestions and reports.
III.3. The Greek Land Registrars’ position
Greece was, and still is, now more than ever, in need of a multi-purpose cadastre to serve purposes like urban planning, taxation etc. However, we are still very far from obtaining a cadastre which could serve those purposes in favor of both the citizen and the State. The existing Cadastre covers a very small percentage of the country’s territory, does not comprise buildings (since only plots are being surveyed), forest maps, coastal zones etc. and does not contain reliable (legal or technical) information about either public or private properties. This ascertainment is not pleasant for anyone involved. It constitutes, however, the very basis for any sincere discussion and any efficient project towards the completion of the Greek Cadastre.
Taking all the above into consideration, our main suggestions as Land Registrars are the following:
i) The cadastral surveys procedures should be revised and simplified.
ii) Land Registries should be integrated in the land survey procedure; the need for corrections a posteriori (of the initial registrations) can be significantly reduced or even eliminated if the Land Registries are involved a priori in the survey procedure.
iii) The Registrar’s authority to correct initial cadastral registrations should be extended. The benefits of such an expansion of the Registrar’s authority are apparent:
Reduce the number of court cases and the issues caused by the uncertainty of litigation.
Contribute to the lessening of the expenses incurred by both citizens and the State.
iv) The time periods within which the initial registrations become final should be revised. These time periods should coincide with those provided for in the Greek Civil Code with regard to adverse possession: 10 years in case a title of ownership exists but is defective (ordinary usucaption) and 20 years in case of complete absence of title (extraordinary usucaption). It is legally problematic that a special law (cadastral law) practically abolishes the general provisions of the Civil Code referring to the acquisition and deprivation of property rights by prescribing significantly shorter time periods after the lapse of which the initial cadastral registrations become final. Thus, the latter should be extended to reach the time period of the ordinary adverse possession (10 years) with a further prolongation for people residing abroad. In case the declared right has been based on adverse possession and not on a transfer of ownership deed, the time period should be extended to reach 20 years. These time frames assure compatibility of the cadastral provisions with both the general principles of the Civil Code as well as with the Greek Constitution.
v) The presumption that the initial registrations are correct after the lapse of specific time periods should be rebuttable to assure compatibility with both the Greek Constitution (art. 17) and the European Convention on Human Rights (Art. 1 of the 1st Additional Protocol) protecting the right on property.
vi) Independency of the Land Registries. The present institutional and financial independency of the Land Registries guarantees an effective legal control of the registered deeds and creates no liability issues and financial burdens for either NCMA S.A. or the State. In this sense, a kind of autonomous parallel function of the Land Registries, as the current function of the interim Cadastral Offices, can support NCMA S.A. and the Greek State towards the creation of a complete, reliable and operational user-friendly Cadastre. Land Registries undertake the task to update the legal information and to correct the initial cadastral registrations, while NCMA S.A. can focus on the technical aspect of the project by monitoring the land surveys, updating the spatial information in the cadastral database and, of course, by elaborating the forest maps, which also constitutes a constitutional obligation.
In general terms, the prevailing legal character of land registration systems should be recognized by all stakeholders involved in the project. This recognition should be the starting point for any technical assistance provided to the Greek Government and moreover for any political decision adopted.
Land Registries constitute the instrument to protect legal rights and imbue trade with legal certainty, through the disclosure of legally valid, legally effective information about ownership andother legal rights. Land Registries are not mere databases but legal institutions. Registration publicity is not mere information, but qualified and reliable information with legal value and effects. Land registry systems protect citizens’ fundamental right on property as well as public property and provide legal certainty in transactions relating to immovable property, setting up the conditions for the development of an efficient and more transparent market.
This has been true in the case of Greece for a very long time since the main service that Land Registries provided, that is the legal certainty, had never been questioned by the users of this service. On the other hand the importance of a complete and reliable multi-purposed Cadastre that includes forest maps, coastal zone maps, private and public property (plots and buildings included), maps etc. is without a doubt a necessary tool for an effective land administration system and, thus, a key factor for economic and social development. It is not acceptable that Greece, a European Member State since 1981, is still not in a position to create a Cadastre of such qualities that could prove to be valuable at times of severe financial crisis as the one the country is currently undergoing. Almost 20 years after the introduction of the first cadastral law, only 6,1% of the country’s surface is covered by the Cadastre and the progress remains extremely slow and problematic mainly due to inherent factors of the project.
Taking this reality into consideration, the emphasis should now be placed upon the creation of an effective cadastral database and we, the Greek Land Registrars, are willing to offer any assistance towards this direction as we have been doing since the beginning of the project by correcting and safeguarding the legal information in the cadastral database. However, it is our obligation as the legal professionals working on the new system, but also as Greek citizens, to point out all its anomalies and implications, in order to facilitate their identification and elimination. It was exactly these malfunctions that have entailed severe sanctions for Greece on behalf of the European Commission who had been funding for years the country’s effort to create a cadastre.
The main problems are still there and their resolution requires a revision of the initial conception and design of the entire project and, thus, courageous political decisions. Unfortunately, what we have been witnessing so far on a political level is not the acceleration of the project, but the planning of a precocious replacement of the existing Land Registries by an institution that so far seems to be failing in its primary mission, that is to actually create a Cadastre.