Another Setback for Greece’s Lagging Land Registry

(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS – Far behind schedule in completing a land registry identifying who owns what property in Greece, the timetable for declaration of ownership could be pushed back again because of the staggerjng amount of properties that still need to be given the official imprimatur.

The Environment Ministry is looking at okaying another delay, said Kathimerini, because so few relatively came forward during the slow summer months to list properties in the registry, said likely as well because extensions keep being granted.

The ministry said it would be the last extension and that it is now examining the prospect of penalizing late declarations with fines although that’s been said before and the country is still years behind schedule to get it done.

More than 20 years after it was begun, Greece expects to finally become the last  country in the European Union to have a land registry identifying who owns what properties, although in remote areas some pieces of land were passed down from ancestors without specific borders designated.

The haphazard system has even seen some members of the Diaspora cheated out of their properties while it’s been difficult for the government to ascertain who legally owns what land and with runaway unlawful building even on state lands that hasn’t been stopped.

A rush is on to make people provide documentation so that the registry can be finished by 2021, the news agency Reuters said in March, with the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA government spending hundreds of millions of euros on the project.

The lack of a complete record of property ownership across the country is a major barrier to investment, tax collection and growth. The biggest land registry in the country opened on March 13 in Athens, which has nearly half the country’s population of nearly 11 million.

The aim is to speed compilation of a nationwide database as Athens residents will be able to register their assets in rural Greece without having to travel outside the capital as had been the case before, making them take long, arduous treks to their family properties and villages in the mountains and on the islands.

The new registry is a 3,000 square meter (32,000-square foot) office complex to the north of Athens with a green metal roof that was built to host gymnastics events at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Staff at the new center and in smaller offices outside the capital are trying to establish an electronic database that will cover the whole country by 2021, a deadline agreed with Greece’s foreign creditors who had pushed for a legal system of designating properties.

The project began in 1998 but by 2010, when Greece signed the first of what turned into three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($370.2 billion), it was alone with Albania as being the only countries in the EU without a registry even now.

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