A Cypriot: first lawyer ever to practice law on both sides of the no man’s land

Do you know anyone who would challenge that it is possible to meet people in Brussels with the most incredible history? Such an incredible person just crossed my way for the second time. Who he is? His name is Erdem Erginel, 46 years, married, two kids and a lawyer. That seems “normal”, but there are other elements.

Son of the President of the Supreme Court of Northern Cyprus, he studied law in Southampton and the University College London and moved in 2003 to Brussels. After an internship in the European Parliament (all still quite “normal”), he became the first Northern Cypriot (some people would say “Turkish Cypriot”) to work in the European Commission.

Not only in a Directorate General, but in the Cabinets of two Southern Cypriot Commissioners (some would say Greek Cypriots). After this experience, he moved to two Directorate Generals: DG SANCO (health and consumers) and DG MOVE (mobility and transport). This meant that he represented the EU at meetings of the WHO (World Health Organisation) and negotiated maritime aspects in the free trade agreements with the US and Japan.

Because of personal reasons he moved back to the Northern part of Cyprus and worked there as a lawyer, specialised in maritime transport.

To recall: Cyprus is an island in the Eastern Mediterranean. Because of its strategic location, the British conquered it as colony. In 1960, the country became independent and lived peacefully with a power-sharing of the two linguistic groups. In 1974 a war broke out – consequence: the island is now divided and a sort of iron curtain separates the North (Turkish speaking) from the South (Greek speaking). The United Nations (UN) negotiated a referendum to unite the Island: in 2004 it was accepted in the North and rejected in the South. As history is not always fair, the South was accepted to represent the whole of the island as a member of the EU.


Map of Cyprus – CC


And Erdem Erginel in all of this? He practiced law in the Northern part – in a territory only recognised by the neighbouring Turkey. As he always looks for challenges, he went to the South, asked for an internship in a law firm, studied law, discovering how different it has become since the splitting of the country in 1974. Every day, he crossed the border with two identity checks and went through the no man’s land, secured by UN troops. After having passed all the ten examinations, he became a lawyer of the Southern part as well.

This means: he is the only Cypriot, who is now practising law in the two parts of the country. If you look at other separated countries in the recent past (Germany, Korea, Vietnam, Yemen), Erdem Erginel is the only lawyer with a degree from the two sides of the no man’s land to work in the whole territory.