The applicants are five Greek nationals, George Kosmas, his wife Kyratso Kosma and their three children, who live on the island of Skopelos. The case concerned the privileges enjoyed by monasteries in Greece relating to real estate of which they had been claiming ownership before the courts.
Mr George Kosmas claims to own land in the locality of Glysteri on the island of Skopelos. He had built a tavern at one end of the piece of land, which has been operating for decades. In winter Mr Kosmas and his wife were the only inhabitants of this stretch of coast on the island. The adjacent land belonged to the Holy Monastery of Megisti Lavra (Great Laura) and was uninhabited. The children had two boats to take tourists from the town of Skopelos to the beach and the tavern. The applicants allege that the operational value of their property has been estimated at € 2,400,000.
In 2004 the monastery decided to claim ownership of the land in question in the courts. The Volos district court found for the monastery and recognised its ownership of the land at issue. In February 2007 Mr Kosmas appealed to the Larissa Court of Appeal, which noted that the monastery had purchased the land from the true owner by a deed of transfer of ownership certified by the chancellery of Skopelos, and that it had accordingly owned it in good faith since 1824. The Court of Appeal observed that there was nothing in Mr Kosma’s predecessors’ title deeds dating from 1883, 1902 and 1909, which he had adduced, to show that his predecessors had drawn up any acts of possession relating to the land in question. The court dismissed the appeal.
In January 2011 Mr Kosmas lodged an appeal on points of law, but the Court of Cassation upheld the Court of Appeal’s judgment by judgment of 31 May 2012.
The applicants were evicted in October 2013.
Relying in particular on Article 1 of Protocol no. 1 (protection of property) the applicants complained, inter alia, that the monasteries, including Megisti Lavra, as private property owners, were treated on an equal footing to the State, which they submitted had the consequence of debarring private individuals from the right of adverse possession vis-à-vis the property in question and encouraging the Greek courts to reject any allegation of abuse of rights by the monasteries. They also complained about procedural obstacles preventing them from proving that they had acquired the land at issue by adverse possession. Finally, they criticised the indefinite nonapplicability of statutory limitations of the holy monasteries’ claims to real property.
- Violation of Article 1 of Protocol no. 1 – in respect of George Kosmas
Just satisfaction: € 75,000 for all heads of damage and € 3,000 for costs and expenses to George Kosmas.
Press release ECHR 225 (2017) 29/06/2017