NEWS

Gov’t to seek political solution to dispute over mortgage-holders at Eurogroup

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The government appears determined to achieve a political solution to an ongoing disagreement with creditors about the level of protection offered to highly indebted homeowners.

According to sources, Premier Alexis Tsipras has asked key ministers to reach a compromise on other pending issues, such as possible alternatives to a 23 percent value-added tax on private education, by Sunday, so that Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos can seek a political solution at a summit of eurozone finance ministers on Monday. The aim is to ensure that most primary residences remain protected from foreclosures. Creditors insist that only homeowners demonstrably struggling to make repayments should be protected while Athens wants the majority of primary residences protected.

Tsipras, who has broached the issue of foreclosures with several European leaders recently, raised it again Wednesday in talks with visiting European Parliament President Martin Schulz. In a joint press conference, Tsipras claimed his government “is under pressure and faces absurd demands as regards lifting the protection for primary residences.” He said he would not give in to such pressure.

In his public statements, Schulz said he would relay Greek demands to his partners in Brussels. Behind closed doors, he told Tsipras Greece should not come under excessive pressure while struggling to tackle the refugee crisis, sources said.

European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici who rounded off his visit to Athens on Wednesday, was firmer, noting that a first set of “milestones” pledged to creditors must be legislated by Monday. He called on Greece to show a responsible approach in return for solidarity. As regards 10 billion euros set aside for recapitalizating Greek banks, Moscovici said Greece must adopt further measures to bolster its banks and the budget before the money can be released. A European official told Kathimerini that the extra banking measures could be included in a second set of milestones Greece must legislate. A vote on outstanding measures from a first set of milestones, including higher taxes for farmers, is due Thursday.