Court mulls state asset seizures

Laws of the 1950s and 1960s that prevent Greek citizens from seeking the expropriation of state assets in return for outstanding debts are unconstitutional and contravene international human rights conventions, a Supreme Court prosecutor has argued before a plenary session. If prosecutor Dionyssios Katsireas’s proposal – made public yesterday – is adopted, state agencies and local authorities could end up sharing the fate of ordinary citizens and see their assets, ranging from real estate not used for the public benefit to ministerial cars, seized and auctioned off to repay debts. The prosecutor advocated that the court’s plenary session, which is to meet in a few weeks, should overturn a lower court’s decision against a Piraeus company seeking the expropriation of the local municipality’s assets to cover a debt of 1.12 million drachmas. The court had based its ruling on laws of 1952 and 1968 that protect the state sector and local authorities from expropriation. But Katsireas said these contravene the Constitution, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The window of opportunity is still open. But it has already started to close, Verheugen warned.

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