Stournaras Presses For Foreclosures

Yannis Stournaras

ATHENS – Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said even if no deal is reached with international lenders over whether to lift a ban on foreclosures that the government should go ahead with it and let banks start confiscating primary residences next year.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader, is trying to convince his coalition partner, PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos who is his Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos to go ahead with ending the moratorium when it expires on Dec. 31.

Venizelos, who served in  a previous PASOK government which implemented the ban to protect homeowners who couldn’t afford to pay their mortgages because of big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions being imposed on orders of the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) had initially gone along with ending it but balked after resistance from some of his party members as well as those in New Democracy and public outrage.

Stournaras said there would be measures to protect those who genuinely can’t pay while going after those he said are exploiting the moratorium which he said is a minority. He didn’t say how exempting the vast majority of people who can’t pay would benefit the banks. The ban protects homes with values under 200,000 euros ($272,000) that are primary residences.

Stournaras, who has championed increasingly tough austerity measures and more taxes, reportedly said the government must draft legislation to allow foreclosures even if the government can’t agree with the Troika on whether to lift the ban against seizing primary residences.

A number of lawmakers from New Democracy have said they won’t go along with allowing foreclosures on the homes of people who can’t afford to pay their mortgages because of big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions implemented by the government, jeopardizing the coalition.

Simon O’Connor, spokesman for European Economic and Monetary Affairs spokesman Olli Rehn, said the Troika has not asked Greece to lift the moratorium on foreclosures but to prevent people “systematically abusing” the protection it offers. “We want a solution that will protect the truly vulnerable but will also allow banks to put things in order,” the spokesman said.