Talks on lifting auction ban on primary residences put off

Athens and the representatives of its international creditors – known as the troika – have postponed until at least September any talks on the lifting of a ban on homes that are main residences being auctioned. Although Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis and foreign experts did not discuss the subject in detail at a meeting in his ministry on Tuesday, it was decided that they would return to the issue in a few months.

Talks centered on the findings of a survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which stressed high prices in retail commerce, tourism, construction materials and food processing, as well as on a separate survey by the World Bank on the bureaucratic obstacles to the licensing of new enterprises. These two issues will constitute the ministry’s top priorities in the latter half of the year, and are expected to be among its biggest challenges.

The ministry has until September to draft a road map of regulations that will be implemented within the fall period for lifting obstacles to competition and simplifying licensing procedures.

Far earlier, possibly by next week, the ministry is expected to table in Parliament a bill on market operation that will include a controversial regulation on allowing retail stores to open on Sunday. It remains unknown whether the ministry will succeed in pushing through the option for retailers to operate every Sunday of the year, as coalition partners PASOK and Democratic Left may introduce changes to the bill to secure broader support.

The troika is also said to have expressed its satisfaction with a recent law allowing mortgage holders who are in arrears with their payments to negotiate a repayment scheme with their bank.