Greece limits foreclosure protection after financial crisis

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Lawmakers in Greece begun Wednesday to debate tougher regulations to deal with household insolvency in the wake of the country’s financial crisis.

The debate started at a parliamentary committee even though the government has so far failed to finalize an agreement with bailout creditors on details of the new regulations.

Roughly 47 percent of Greek loans had soured by late last year after unemployment and poverty soared during eight years of crisis and international bailouts. Banks have promised to reduce that level to below 20 percent by the end of 2021.

During the crisis, most distressed mortgage holders were protected from foreclosure of primary family residences but the new rules would limit the safeguards to low-income families.

Greece no longer relies directly on bailout loans for financing but its massive national debt, which is the equivalent of 180 percent of the country’s annual GDP, has left the country in need of additional debt relief measures from the eurozone’s rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism, and other creditors.

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Lenders earlier this month delayed approving an additional round of relief measures worth nearly 1 billion euros ($1.13 billion) — that includes profits on Greek government bonds held by the European Central Bank — until details of the new insolvency law are fully agreed. Creditors have expressed doubts that the new rules will adequately identify so-called strategic defaulters who have the ability to pay their debts but exploit protection regulations.

In Athens, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said he still expected Greece to qualify for the relief measures at a meeting on April 5 of eurozone finance ministers.

“There are only two or three unresolved issues and agreement has been reached on all other matters,” he said.

“It is clear that we reserve the right as the Greek government to have a better understanding of the Greek real estate market than our partners do.”

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