Foreclosures threat pushed back

Government takes unilateral decision to stretch out protection period offered to vulnerable social groups

An agreed foreclosure protection period currently granted to first-home buyers unable to settle overdue tax amounts will be conditionally extended beyond the end of the current year, when it is set to expire, regardless of the outcome of upcoming negotiations between Greek government officials and the country’s creditor representatives, or troika, in Paris early next month, a high-ranking Justice Ministry official announced Thursday. However, the conditions for the extension will be stricter and probably more specific, the official added.

The decision was disclosed by the ministry official immediately after a meeting between Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou and Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis, as part of the government’s preparations for the troika negotiations in Paris.

The official described the development as “a decision and not an intention” to stop the troika’s request for foreclosures at one-third of the nominal value.

The same official also noted that “the prime minister’s order for the protection of vulnerable debtholders would proceed.”

Also Thursday, ministers dealing with the problem of nonperforming bank loans were requested to make clear that the government would, under no circumstances, leave vulnerable social groups unprotected.

The coalition government’s junior partner, PASOK, adopted a similar position on the issue, and in fact rushed to beat coalition leader New Democracy in getting the news out first.

The finance minister also hled a meeting with Administrative Reform Deputy Minister Evi Christofilopoulou, during which the pair discussed pending issues ahead of the imminent troika talks, such as restructuring in the public sector, including the unified pay structure in the civil service, as well as a new recruitment law for the public sector.

Hardouvelis is scheduled to hold more meetings Friday with others ministers who will take part in the Paris talks, such as Labor, Social Security and Welfare Minister Yiannis Vroutsis and Development and Competitiveness Minister Nikos Dendias.

Greek government officials are scheduled to meet with troika officials over three days, beginning on September 2. Issues to be discussed will include the next budget, the fiscal gap for 2015, and taxation policy, especially the newly introduced ENFIA property tax.