SYRIZA, Troika Still Far Apart on Home Foreclosure Bill

FILE - German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, speaks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, center left, during a round table at an EU summit at the Europa building in Brussels on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

The embattled ruling Radical Left SYRIZA’s hopes of protecting as many homes as possible from foreclosures Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras vowed to stop before reneging will be taken up at a critical March 25 meeting of advisors to European Union finance ministers.

They represent the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) which put up a third bailout for Greece in 2015, this one for 86 billion euros ($97.36 billion) that came with more harsh austerity measures.

That included requirements that Tsipras step away from his vow, “Not one home in the hands of banks,” and he already has allowed seizures of homes online to get around sometimes violent protests at courthouse auctions.

The lenders want more homes taken even though many people can’t pay mortgages because of big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings the creditors wanted to insure banks would get paid back.

But Tsipras, falling fast in polls in an election year, wants as many homes, particularly primary residences, protected as possible as he’s trying to curry favor again with voters after breaking essentially all his promises to end austerity before imposing more.

That has resulted in an impasse that saw the lenders withhold 970 million euros ($1.099 billion) in profits from Greek bonds held by lenders, the return of which was part of a debt relief deal but only if the agreed reforms were implemented.

“We are not moving very fast,” a European source told Kathimerini, adding that prospects of a quick solution were bleak and getting worse with Tsipras trying to wiggle out of reforms and regain standing in polls.

“We have some way to go before we find a commonly accepted solution,” said the source, who wasn’t identified, with the talks likely to go on an April 5 Eurogroup meeting in Bucharest.

The government had said it would send a bill to Parliament about the foreclosures by March 22 even without Troika approval but, as usual, backed off when no deal had materialized.

To conclude a second review after the Aug. 20, 2018 end of three bailouts of 326 billion euros, Greece must get the approval from the Troika before instituting changes to strict laws that had granted even greater protections to homeowners.

The obstacles now are said to be what the ceiling would be on the value or mortgage of homes to be protected from confiscation, income criteria and small corporate loans with a banker who wasn’t named telling Reuters the government wanted to include a total of 11 billion euros in bad loans but the Troika wants it to be no more than 7 billion euros.

Bad loans account for about 45 percent of banks’ portfolio and they have been holding back lending while hounding debtors who can’t pay because of harsh austerity measures continued by Tsipras who said he would halt them.

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