BREXIT transition period: Changes in property acquisition by UK citizens in Greece

Great Britain's withdrawal from the European Union is now a major milestone in the interaction of British citizens with the rest of European nations.

More specifically, under the terms of the withdrawal agreement, there will be a transitional period set until 31/12/2020 during which the European Union will treat the United Kingdom as a Member State with the exception of its participation in its institutions and governing structures. Respectively during that transitional period, British nationals will be treated as European citizens in all European Union countries, enjoying the rights and privileges they had before Brexit.

With the termination of this transitional period, i.e. from 01/01/2021, British citizens will no longer be considered European citizens and consequently the way in which they can carry out specific actions in any of the European Union countries will change.

One of these actions has to do with the purchase of real estate by UK nationals in Greece and more specifically when it concerns border areas of the country.

According to the recent circular of the Greek Notary Association and based on the Article 26 of the Law 1892/1990 and the regulations applied by Law 4652/2020, every British citizen retains the status of European citizen until 31/12/2020, which means that until then he/she can buy land and property in border areas of Greece without additional restrictions. From 01/01/2021, this is changing and any British citizen interested in acquiring real estate in one of the border areas must apply for a special permit to do so, as is the case with non-European citizens.

Buying Real Estate in Greece’s border areas.

To analyze this further, due to national security reasons, the Greek legislation imposes restrictions on the acquisition of property in the Greek territory, by foreign persons who are not citizens or residents of the Member States of the European Union and the European Free Trade Association. According to Articles 24 et seq N.1892/1990 as border areas are defined the following prefectures:

On the mainland the region of Evros, Thesprotia, Kastoria, Kilkis, Xanthi, Preveza, Rodopi, Florina, the former regions of Nevrokipi in the former prefecture of Drama, Pagoniou and Konitsas in the prefecture of Ioannina, Almopia and Edessa in the prefecture of Pella and Sintiki in the prefecture of Serres.

The islands that are defined as border areas are the islands of Lesvos (or Mytilene), Samos, Chios, Santorini (or Thira) and Skyros and the Dodecanese island group which consists of the islands Rhodes, Kos, Patmos, Kalymnos, Karpathos, Astypalaia, Kasos, Leros, Nisyros, Symi, Tilos and Kastelorizo.

How could a UK citizen buy a property in the Greek Islands?

In case any non-European citizens wish to acquire a property located in the above areas they must first submit an application for the lifting of those restrictions to the Ministry of Defense stating the intended use for the property.

The application for the lifting of the prohibition by non-EU residents should be accompanied by various documents related both to the prospective buyer (for example, CV, passport, birth certificate, criminal record, company profile, other company details and documents as appropriate) and to the real estate (for example, detailed description, the purpose of the purchase, survey plan, plan of the larger area

This application is submitted to a committee, which provides its services for a term of five (5) years in every decentralized administration under the decision of the relevant Secretary-General. The committee is composed by the Secretary-General as president and his deputy, and representatives from the Ministries of Defense, Economy and Marine and Citizen Protection, who are appointed with their deputies by the respective authorities.

The committee is authorized to suspend the restrictions, provided that it decides at a majority of the total number of members, and that the representative of the Ministry of Defense casts an affirmative vote.

Subsequently, the above is the procedure that a UK citizen will have to follow as well starting from next year (2021), if, for example, he wishes to buy a summer house in his favourite island of Santorini, which is considered as border area of Greece. However, if the purchase is concluded within the year 2020 then he will not be subject to the above restrictions and described procedure.