By Elias Hazou
AS expected, opposition parties on Thursday held up a blanket suspension of the law on foreclosures, which had they had previously pushed through, disregarding repeated warnings from both the government and Cyprus’ international creditors.
MPs from AKEL, DIKO, EDEK, the Greens and the European Party rejected the President’s referral back to parliament of the law blocking repossessions.
Foreclosures legislation on all mortgaged properties – residences and business premises – will thus remain unenforceable until March 2.
The opposition did not go for a middle-of-the-road proposal – drafted by ruling DISY – which would have suspended foreclosures on primary homes only until April 3.
This, despite the fact that on Wednesday, President Nicos Anastasiades assured party leaders that the troika of lenders consented to the temporary exemption of primary homes.
The assurances had been sought by the opposition.
Earlier this week, Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem as well as the EU’s Economic and Financial Affairs Commissionaire Pierre Moscovici asked for the law to be implemented with no further delay.
In blocking the law – passed last year – the opposition, which has the majority in parliament, claims to be protecting vulnerable groups until a safety net for borrowers – the insolvency framework – comes into force.
But observers are suggesting that opposition parties are instead protecting big borrowers, mostly developers, not the vulnerable.
International lenders have interrupted the bailout programme until Cyprus complies with the terms it had agreed in March 2013.
At Thursday’s plenum, AKEL tabled its own bill that would have blocked repossessions far beyond the March 2 date, to June 29. The proposal was defeated.
Also rejected was a bill from the Greens, exempting from repossessions until June 1 mortgaged primary residences and small business premises with a loan up to €350,000, as well as properties for which a dispute mediation process has been initiated by the Financial Commissioner.
According to reports, opposition parties may next week table a fresh bill suspending foreclosures even beyond March 2, unless in the meantime the government submits to parliament the fifth and last insolvency bill.
Some commentators say the government bears some of the blame for the impasse, as it has been dragging its feet on the insolvency framework – a set of laws governing bankruptcy – since September 2014.
Also on Thursday, parliament ratified by majority vote the budget of the Fiscal Council. AKEL and the Greens voted against, arguing that the council is just another mechanism for implementing austerity policies.
The mission of the recently-instituted Fiscal Council is to monitor government spending to ensure the state sticks to its fiscal targets.
The body’s budget for 2015 comes to €215,000.