Foreclosures to dominate leaders' meeting

The criteria which will decide whether banks can foreclose on property when customers have stopped making loan repayments are likely to be at the center of talks between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday.

Samaras pledged this week that he would personally study the issue amid government unrest about the prospect of ending a moratorium on foreclosures, which has been in place since 2009. Sources said that among the ideas being considered by the government is to allow banks to auction some 10,000 business properties and holiday homes, thereby avoiding the politically sensitive problem of owners losing their primary residences – at least for the time being.

The government has been under pressure from the troika to allow foreclosures because Greece’s lenders believe the continued moratorium is distorting the property market. Ministers have admitted over the past few weeks that the suspension, which is due to expire at the end of the year, is not going to be renewed. This has sparked objections from opposition parties and within government ranks.

“PASOK has made it clear from the start that it will not discuss any lifting on the protection of main residences of average and poor Greeks,” said Socialist lawmaker Costas Triantafyllos during a debate in Parliament on Wednesday.

“You want to apply social criteria to the process of throwing people out of their homes,” said SYRIZA’s Panayiotis Lafazanis. “This is absolute barbarism. You want to add thousands of homeless people to the hundreds of thousands of unemployed people, supposedly so you can save the banks.”

Sources said Samaras might unveil the government’s proposals when he speaks at the Thessaloniki International Fair next month.