A riot policeman closes the door of the court as protesters try to avoid tear gas in Athens, on Wednesday. Protesters clashed with police in an Athens court of appeals as foreclosures begin anew as part of reforms under Greece's bailout plans.
Ruling SYRIZA’s Political Council convened on Thursday under the shadow cast by the resumption Wednesday of auctions of foreclosed properties and the use of tear gas by riot police to counter angry protesters at an Athens courthouse.
Leading SYRIZA officials raised concern that the issue, which has even polarized the ruling party itself on ideological grounds, could inflict serious damage to the leftist-led government’s image, at a time when it is attempting to push the narrative that Greece is back on the road to financial recovery.
Several leading officials also said that a verbal agreement between the government and the banks not to auction off primary residences up to 300,000 euros is simply not enough to keep the lid on ever growing discontent emanating from the party’s base and across the board.
A verbal agreement, they insisted, is no guarantee that it will be upheld and could lead to the perception that the government is on course for yet another political turnaround.
To preempt this turn of events, party officials said it is essential that the government puts its commitment in writing by passing it into legislation.
However, the government appeared intent on Thursday on sticking to its so-called “gentlemen’s agreement” with the banks, as, it said, putting it into law would undoubtedly draw a strong reaction from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).
For his part, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said the concerns of SYRIZA officials and the party base can only be overcome by pursuing a growth agenda.
“[Greek] society has many needs. One of these needs is to have growth and have a society that can stand on its own feet,” Tsakalotos said after the meeting. He added that the government’s commitment to growth cannot be implemented if the banking system is not built on healthy foundations.
Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos echoed similar sentiments, saying that the fine balance must be found between achieving a healthy banking system and protecting people’s homes.
With regard to the bailout review negotiations, the council said that all parties involved want a swift conclusion and, for this reason, several difficult issues will be deferred to the next bailout review.