Cyprus Aims to Ban Turkish Place-names in GPS Systems

The Government of Cyprus is petitioning to ban the sale of any GPS receivers that use maps or data displaying Turkish place-names for the current Turkish controlled areas of the Republic.

This attempt to ban GPS receivers, however, is turning out to be quite a legal challenge. Preventing the sale of consumer goods violates a number of EU free market laws, in addition to regulations dealing with the free flow and availability of goods and services. The receivers are produced by Garmin, a US electronics company, and are imported to Cyprus from Britain.

These devices come pre-loaded with a core set of maps which use Turkish names for various towns, villages and streets in the Turkish occupied northern area of Cyprus.

Map picture

The Government has filed complaint against both Garmin and their Cypriot distributor.

In the government complaints, the Ministry of Education and Culture argues in support of the ban stating that the Greek place names of Cyprus have developed over centuries. They claim that the Turkish government has undertaken a systematic campaign to transform the place names locations of northern Cyprus. Additionally, the Ministry argued that, according to both the United Nations and UNESCO, placenames are a protected part of a country’s cultural heritage.

In further demonstration of their commitment to such a ban, the Cypriot government is currently developing a law to officially ban importation of the any devices containing Turkish place-name data.

While this may be merely an exercise in the absurd, it is nevertheless an interesting case in that it tests a local government’s authority concerning not the actual use of GPS devices within their territory, but the content that is displayed as a result.

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