Cyprus Mail

Opposition grows to foreclosures ‘fire sale’

By Angelos Anastasiou

The government-sponsored foreclosures bill, aimed at speeding up proceedings when borrowers prove insolvent beyond salvation, has caused a wave of protests from political parties and other organised groups, with opposition poised to escalate from vocal disagreement to active resistance.

On Thursday, union of small businesses and self-employed individuals (SYMEA) head Stavros Alampritis announced his group’s opposition to any legislation facilitating foreclosures. SYMEA, he said, has offered a number of proposals to replace this “ill-advised effort.”

“We convened on Wednesday night and decided that we will not allow any foreclosure legislation,” he told the Cyprus Mail. “On Thursday, we sent letters to all parties asking for a meeting so that we can lay out our proposals and convince them to vote against any foreclosures bill that comes before them.”

But should their efforts fail and the bill makes its way to the House, a massive mobilisation will be triggered instantly, Alampritis said.

“The moment such a bill is announced to have been tabled will be the moment we camp outside Parliament, along with our families – indefinitely,” he said. “We will also sway the public in favour of our cause, and deputies will come to realise that they cannot betray the very citizens that entrusted them with their office.”

Although SYMEA is a young union, set up last April and numbering only some 2,000 members so far, the camp-out will by no means be the last of it. A wave of class-action lawsuits against lenders will be launched at the same time.

“Thousands of simultaneous lawsuits against banks will cripple the banking system – it will create a vicious circle,” he warned. “But of course we might also employ even more extreme measures, which may include variants of passive resistance, an absolute refusal to cooperate in any manner.”

“That is why we propose a compromise,” Alampritis said. “We don’t wish conflict with anyone, but if we are not met with cooperation we will unleash the full force of our resistance.”

Instead of foreclosures, SYMEA proposed a universal haircut on loan principals and capping bank interest rates so that delinquent borrowers can afford to repay their loans.

“Foreclosures should only be allowed with the borrower’s consent,” the union’s leader argued. “Borrowers have an equal incentive with the banks to repay their loans – but they have a right to sell their property when the price is right, not in a distressed market.”

Alampritis has a theory on why the foreclosures bill is being forced on Cyprus, and it has nothing to do with supporting illiquid, undercapitalised banks.

“I know from credible sources that Cyprus’ natural wealth is of untold proportions,” he said. “But it is being kept secret until the Cyprus problem is solved. Once there is a solution to the Cyprus problem and this wealth is unearthed, Cyprus will become a new Kuwait, and the value of land will soar – perhaps tenfold relative to its current prices.”

“That is why all these hawks are in a hurry to buy our land in a fire sale. We will not allow it.”

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