By Angelos Anastasiou
Four out of six bills voted by the House last Saturday to limit the scope of the controversial foreclosures bill were found to be conflicting with the constitution of Cyprus and referred to the Supreme Court for a ruling, President Nicos Anastasiades announced on Wednesday.
At the same time the European Commission said parts of the legislation passed by parliament were incompatible with the terms of the island’s bailout.
“While a detailed assessment is still ongoing, it appears clear that parts of the legislation voted through last Saturday, together with the foreclosures bill, are not compatible with the requirements of the MoU in this important policy area,” said European Commission spokesman Simon O’Connor.
The six contentious bills, which were tabled and voted by opposition parties as a “safety net” to vulnerable groups against the risk of foreclosure, had been referred to the Attorney-general by Anastasiades on Monday for a constitutionality review, following the Troika’s explicit opposition to their provisions.
Since the six bills were voted to “complement” the foreclosures framework – which replaced Cyprus’ outdated and ineffectual procedure by allowing sweeping powers to lenders so they can speedily repossess properties used as collateral in non-performing loans – speculation has been rife that Anastasiades may veto them as they were regarded by the Troika as subverting the foreclosures bill’s philosophy.
“In a practical expression of my stated desire to avoid any unnecessary confrontation with parliamentary parties, and following copious review of the Attorney General’s opinion, it has been established that four out of six bills approved by the House, which I did not sign into law, are in conflict with the Constitution,” Anastasiades said in a statement. “I have therefore decided, instead of vetoing the bills back to the House, to refer them directly to the Supreme Court so that the highest judicial body, an independent institution of the Republic, can issue a ruling as per its jurisdiction on constitutionality.”
The President explained that he has yet to come to a decision regarding the two bills deemed constitutional, but implied they could not be signed into law. After a bill has been approved by the House, the President is allowed 15 days to decide on whether to veto or sign the bill into law.
“Concerning the remaining two bills, which the Attorney-general has determined as compliant with the Constititution, I will make a decision within the Constitutional deadline, following deliberations with parliamentary parties,” he announced.
But as taking the bills off the table appears to be a prerequisite to the disbursement of the next tranche of financial aid to Cyprus – €350 million – by the Eurogroup, Anastasiades may have little room to negotiate. He signed off his statement with a subtle warning to dissenters that insistence on the provisions of the rogue bills may prove catastrophic both to the country’s short-term economic viability and long-term economic recovery.
“The basis for my decisions is ensuring the continuance of stability and avoiding any developments that could compromise the country’s and the financial system’s credibility, which were secured by the sacrifice of the Cyprus people,” he said. “At the same time, I continue intensive negotiations with political leaders and institutional EU bodies to achieve the unimpeded continuance of the support and funding programme of the Cyprus economy, which is so crucial to the interests of our country.”