Members of civil society group ‘Movement Against Foreclosures’ gathered on Thursday outside the presidential palace to express their concern over possible decisions to favour banks over borrowers in measures to tackle the problem of non-performing loans (NPLs).
The group gathered as President Nicos Anastasiades met with political leaders to discuss NPLs along with Finance Minister Harris Georgiades, House Speaker Demetris Syllouris, and Central Bank Governor Chrystalla Georghadji.
Protesters delivered a memo to the president and political leaders laying out the group’s position on foreclosures and the protection of primary residences and small businesses.
In the memo the group calls for an extension of the deadline for a notice of repayment to three months and for the property auction to provide reasonable time for someone to defend themselves ‘against the arbitrary requirements of banking institutions’. It also calls for law amendments to ensure the rights of borrowers and to provide additional support.
Group member Demetris Demetriou from Nicosia expressed concerns that an attempt is underway to convey to society the message that all the evils of the economy stem from NPLs, especially those of households and mortgage loans.
“We believe this is an attempt to exonerate banks from their criminal behaviour that brought about the financial crisis,” Demetriou told the Cyprus News Agency.
The movement, he said, will continue its struggle for the protection of the right to housing, ‘so that no worker and no Cypriot citizen will find themselves out in the street due to foreclosures and bank evictions’.
He expressed the hope that the movement’s suggestion for the creation of a recovery body for NPLs would be promoted during Anastasiades’ meeting with political leaders.
“The half-measures we have seen in previous legislation are essentially helping banks,” he said. It is time, he said, for the state to help households that are in real need.
He gave the example of a recent case where a borrower did not present in court and a decision was taken in absentia for auction of his property, adding that there are many such cases.
The aim of the movement, he said, is to create all the legislative instruments to give borrowers the right to resort to courts in time to avoid any divestiture by banks with timely legal assistance from the state.
The group confirmed that a primary residence is to be auctioned in Limassol next week. The house, they said, belongs to a single mother of three.
Demetriou said the movement wants ‘to create a chain of people that will prevent any attempt at foreclose and have the legislation that allows foreclosures and evictions shelved’.