Athens opposes tough troika stance on foreclosures

Government officials on Monday affirmed their opposition to a hardening stance being pursued by the troika, including pressure for restrictions to be lifted on home foreclosures, Kathimerini understands.

In a meeting at the Maximos Mansion on Monday, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras discussed this issue — along with a series of prior actions that must be fulfilled for further rescue funding to be released — with his deputy Evangelos Venizelos, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos. The latter joined the meeting for talks regarding the fate of state defense firm, EAS, which Athens wants to streamline but keep export-oriented while the troika is reportedly pushing for its liquidation. Discussions also focused on the Skaramangas shipyard, west of Athens, whose reoperation the government is keen to secure.

In comments to reporters after the meeting, Stournaras said the government must draft legislation amending the existing status quo regarding foreclosures irrespective of whether or not a deal is reached with the troika on the issue as the current ban protecting Greeks’ primary residences is set to expire on December 31.

Commenting on the matter earlier in the day, Simon O’Connor, the spokesman for European Economic and Monetary Affairs spokesman Olli Rehn, said the troika has not asked Greece to lift the moratorium on foreclosures but to prevent people “systematically abusing” the protection it offers. “We want a solution that will protect the truly vulnerable but will also allow banks to put things in order,” O’Connor said.

Stournaras also commented on the deadlock over EAS, saying that Greece “insists” that the firm retains its export-focused character for a trial period to determine whether the firm is viable or not. A dispute over EAS – as well as a disagreement over the size of a projected fiscal gap for next year — has been the key stumbling block to the release of the next tranche of aid for Greece, a sum of 1 billion euros.

Asked by reporters whether Greece and the troika would agree on the prior actions by the next Eurogroup summit on December 9, Stournaras said the government was making “a great effort to do so.”

According to sources, government officials expressed intense concern during the meeting about the troika’s toughening stance. Venizelos gave vent to those concerns in comments at a conference in Athens organized by the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, accusing the foreign auditors of “unfairly and unjustifiably broaching issues that are ostensibly pending” and of hiding behind minor bureaucratic details.

Venizelos is said to have discussed Greece’s talks with the troika, the country’s debt problems and the government’s inability to impose further austerity measures, in telephone conversations over the past few days with Rehn and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. The PASOK leader met on Monday with Hannes Swoboda, the leader of the center-left alliance in the European Parliament, who backed Greece’s “enormous reform work” in a posting on his Twitter account. “The troika should stop to ask for further antisocial measures in Greece,” he said.

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