By Angelos Anastasiou
DESPITE earlier warnings by the government that absolutely no changes could be made to the foreclosures bill, and that a strict deadline for its voting was set at the end of August, Finance minister Harris Georgiades told deputies yesterday that the Troika had allowed an extension of one week for a plenum vote on the bill.
Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said the government considers next Friday to be the “final milestone” with regard to the foreclosures bill, and expressed optimism that no further delays will be required.
“We have secured the Troika’s consent for an extension of a few days and will await the House’s decision,” he said. “We believe the procedure will proceed as scheduled.”
The extension was deemed necessary due to the numerous amendments proposed by political parties they say will improve the bill, which were presented at yesterday’s joint session of the House finance and interior committees in the presence of the finance and interior ministers, the Attorney-general and the Governor of the Central Bank.
Comments by the chairman of the finance committee, Nicolas Papadopoulos, who spoke of “particularly pressing timeframes” and proposed a further extension to the plenary session so that the amendments can be reviewed by the House and Legal Services, were met with Georgiades’ understanding.
The finance minister told the committees that he had already informed the Troika of “this difficulty” and asked for such an extension, which Cyprus’ international lenders accepted. The House session was scheduled for next Friday at 4 pm.
Yesterday’s joint session was kicked off with Georgiades presenting the amendments already effected to the bill. According to the minister, one important change is that banks will be able to buy a foreclosed property after the lapse of 12 months, at 100 per cent of its appraised value.
He also said that the bill’s provisions, timeframes and safeguards will apply to all loans, old and new. According to Georgiades, on the one hand old loans are not exempt from the legislation, but on the other, repayment delays on delinquent loans will be effectively restarted, resulting in all loans being treated equally.
Speaking after the session, Papadopoulos described the discussion as “productive” and said that the goal is to “achieve such convergences that will allow a parliamentary majority aiming at securing the desired targets: honouring our commitments and protecting the public.”
Papadopoulos said that a further joint session of the committees has been scheduled for Tuesday, and that “depending on developments we will look at scheduling more sessions.”
But he also denied the government’s dramatic appeals with regard to the necessity of passing the bill, saying that despite Cyprus’ duty to comply with its obligations arising from the memorandum of understanding with the Troika, the risks are not as dramatic as “some” like to imply.
“We want to comply,” Papadopoulos said. “We are not arguing that there will be no consequences to non-compliance, but let us not be alarmist. There are alternatives before us, and that was corroborated by the developments of the last few days.
While we were initially told that nothing can change, we were suddenly presented with three new bills, and we are still discussing changes.”
Chairman of the House interior committee, AKEL’s Yiannos Lamaris welcomed the fact that a dialogue has been fostered between the legislature and the executive on the issue of foreclosures, which he described as “the norm in any democratic country.”
“AKEL has expressed its views on the philosophy of the government bill from the beginning, and we have tabled a number of important issues which we feel should be addressed through the voting of any bill,” he said. “The goal is to safeguard the interests of the individuals, families, and professionals who are at risk of finding themselves out of work and out of a home or business premises.”