Who owns the public land of Kythira?
The unique system of public land administration in effect on the island of Kythera, known as the Εγχώριος Περιουσία (Enchorios Periousia, literally “Domestic Wealth Board”) goes back to the establishment of the United States of the Ionian Islands (Ἡνωμένον Κράτος τῶν Ἰονίων Νήσων), the British protectorate which lasted from 1815 to 1864.
Since the protectorate was administered on federal principles, public land was regarded not as the legal property of central government, but as that of each individual island. When the Ionian Islands were ceded to the Kingdom of Greece 1864, it became necessary to harmonise their legislations with that of the Greek state. Under the unification law of 1866, the Domestic Wealth status of the islands was recognised, pending individual legislation for each of the seven islands. Such legislation, distributing the public land to new municipalities or regions, was passed for most of the islands – but not for Kythera, Ithaka and Paxoi.
Accordingly, the law of 1866 continued to apply, according to which the entity known as the ‘Domestic Wealth of Kythera and Antikythera’ was confirmed as “direct, exclusive and uncontested owner of all real property of whatever nature found on Kythera and Antikythera which is not demonstrably the property of individuals, [including] abandoned land, mountains, woods, the shoreline and foreshore, uninhabited islets, the entirety of the movable and real property of the Holy Pilgrimages [Monasteries] and in general every form of real estate which in other parts of the state would be regarded as Public [i.e., state owned]. The status was confirmed by the Law on Forestry Land of 1979 (N.998/1979).
Further legislation in 1984 clarified that the ‘Domestic Wealth of Kythera and Antikythera’ [hereafter Enhorios for short] “is the intercommunal property of local authorities on Kythera and Antikythera”, thereby formally conferring ownership and control of public land on the islands to the local communes (koinotites) through elected representatives.
A presidential decree (138/2004) became necessary in 2004 in order to reflect the changes in Greece’s administrative system which greatly reduced the number of small communes across the country, with Kythera’s 14 becoming merged into today’s single municipality. Finally, the so-called Kallikratis administrative reform law of 2010 (N.3852/2010) specifies that the Enchorios Periousia of Kythera and Antikythera, now formally a Legal Public Entity (Νομικό Πρόσωπα Δημοσίου Δικαίου, ΝΠΔΔ) “continues to exert its functions according to the relevant special legislation”.
See the English-language summary of George Kasimatis’ “The Institution of Enchoria Periousia”, from a reprint of his fundamental 2005 lecture.
See also (in Greek): https://www.eghorios.gr/istoria/