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Yiolitis says bill was not withdrawn, but will be amended (Update 2)

ΥΠ. ΠΑΙΔΕΙΑΣ, ΔΙΚΑΙΟΣΥΝΗΣ ΚΟΙΝΗ ΣΥΝΕΝΤΕΥΞΗ ΤΥΠΟΥ

Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis on Friday said she did not withdraw a bill for the creation of a court for the speedy process of disputes between borrowers and banks, but rather took it back for amendments to honour the government’s promises to opposition parties.

Members of the House legal affairs committee expressed frustration earlier in the day on hearing that Yiolitis had withdrawn the bill just before it was to be discussed by them, prompting the minister to rush to parliament to provide explanations.

The bill on the rapid adjudication of disputes between borrowers and banks was to be discussed on Friday at the committee with the aim of tabling it to the plenary to vote the soonest possible but MPs were told at the beginning of the meeting the justice ministry was withdrawing the bill.

This caused a reaction from MPs with committee head Disy’s Giorgos Georgiou calling the move “unacceptable.”

Yiolitis said after briefing the committee that her ministry did not withdraw the bill, referring to “bad communication” on her behalf.

Her intention, she said, was to come back within a few days “with amendments that will reflect our commitments to the parliamentary parties as well as the cabinet decisions” earlier this week to protect vulnerable groups and speed up the process of hearing these cases in district courts.

She said this will be carried out in consultation with the finance minister to decide if the amendments that need to be made will be either to this bill or to other laws.

On Wednesday, cabinet authorised the justice minister to make any changes necessary to the bill on the operation of courts so that it includes cases relating to loans and foreclosures, with special emphasis on vulnerable groups of the population.

The decision was part of horse trading between the government and ruling Disy with smaller parties in a bid to get the revised state budget for 2021 approved.

The budget was approved on Thursday with 29 votes for and 26 against.

Disy leader Averof Neophytou too said that the bill was not withdrawn but will be resubmitted within the coming days with amendments aimed at protecting borrowers and vulnerable groups, “and to finally have a justice (system) that adjudicates cases in a short time.”

In this way, he said, the protection of borrowers and especially vulnerable groups will be ensured.

Opposition MPs, however, questioned the minister’s statements arguing that she revised after their strong reactions to news of the bill’s withdrawal.

Akel MP Aristos Damianou said that while in the morning the ministry had said that the bill was being withdrawn in order to set up a special committee that would work out additional proposals, it was later said that it was either a misunderstanding or the MPs failed to understand.

He said President Nicos Anastasiades was the first to use the ‘you did not understand’ excuse “with the well-known anecdote about the two states that he never told anyone.”

“It is obvious that the government made second and wiser thoughts and we take not of that,” Damianou said.

The Diko and Edek MPs too said that it was obvious that the government reconsidered after strong reaction by them.

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