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Our View: Anastasiades backed himself into a corner on foreclosures

WE HAD thought the House plenum session on Saturday would have been the final act of the foreclosures bill saga that had dragged on for weeks, but it was not. President Anastasiades signalled that the play would continue for a while longer when he said on Sunday that he would contact top officials of the Commission as well as European leaders to ask them to accept the additional foreclosures-related laws passed by the parties on Saturday.

Although the contentious foreclosures bill was passed with minor amendments, to which the Troika did not object, the accompanying laws, proposed by the parties as additional safeguards for home-owners and small businesses, did not have the approval of the lenders. Some, had been vetoed in prior consultations, but the parties passed them anyway, putting the onus on Anastasiades to find a way out. Anastasiades had backed himself into a corner because he had agreed to all the safeguards at meetings with the party leaders; he cannot now send the laws back to the legislature, without being seen to make an effort to secure European consent for them.

The problem is that the Troika had made it abundantly clear that it would not agree to most of the provisions included in the parties’ laws, which effectively place major obstacles in the enforcement of the foreclosures law. This is why Anastasiades said he would appeal to heads of the Commission and European leaders for their support. He spent most of yesterday conferring with the Attorney-general, finance minister and other advisors about the constitutionality and compatibility with EU directives of the raft of laws approved by the legislature on Saturday. He would subsequently make contact with the Commission, it was reported.

It is highly unlikely that any European leader or the Commission would overrule the Troika, as a favour to Anastasiades (this is not how things work in the EU), in which case the president would have to send the parties’ laws back to the legislature. Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides hinted at this speaking on a television show yesterday. “Of fundamental significance in the decisions the president makes would be the continuation of the adjustment programme so that the course of recovery and stabilisation of the economy continues,” said Christodoulides.

In short, if the Troika does not approve of the laws Anastasiades would send them back to the legislature. When he does this, he will face heavy criticism from the parties, which were prematurely rejoicing yesterday about the united political front protecting the vulnerable groups. It would be up to the president to handle the political fallout that would follow the brief rejoicing.

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