Published: 28 November 2014
Intro by: TSN Editor
Author: Soteris Vlachos from Socialist Expression in Cyprus
The Movement Against Foreclosures was established in October 2013 as a product of a suddenly deteriorating economic environment. In this environment an ever increasing number of people could not meet their monthly obligation to the banks, and the danger of mass evictions from their partly bought homes prevailed for the first time in the recent history of Cyprus.
The Crisis in Cyprus
The signs of a crisis were present in Cyprus even before the 2008 global financial collapse, but the 2013 haircut of the bank deposits created an unprecedented situation where unemployment increased by almost 300% in less than a year. As a result the number of families that cannot meet their monthly obligations increased dramatically.
Intensive efforts that lasted for more than half a year to build the movement organizationally led to nowhere. Things have changed though since last April, when the movement expanded its influence on the basis of a growing awareness of the necessity of social resistance against what seemed to be imminent.
This new climate together with the initiative of the Movement Against Foreclosures (MAF) to become a member of the Union and Social Movements Platform (The Society Reacts and Struggles) that had been created the previous year where important labour unions were already members, gave a new impetus to the organisational effort.
Since then, there have been important gains through interventions in neighborhoods, peripheral and pan Cyprian demonstrations and events. The increasing influence of the Movement compelled the mass media to daily deal with the subject and invite representatives of the movement to express their ideas.
Most important among all the events that were organized by MAF until now, were the pan Cyprian demonstration outside the Presidential Palace and more recently the pan Cyprian open discussion with the main speaker being a representative of a Spanish movement against foreclosures.
The first was co-organized with the Union and Social Movements Platform on the 27th of August, in the middle of Cyprus? intolerable summer, and was able to gather 3000 people together. A representative of our Movement, together with the representatives of all other Unions and Social movements, greeted the gathering.
The second event was organized by our Movement and supported by the Platform. As it has already been noted, the main speaker was a representative of the Spanish Platform of People Affected by Public and Social Housing. Its main target was to pass the message that the suffering of Cypriots is in no different than the suffering of Spanish or Europeans and that the only way out is an alliance of the people and movements of Europe against the economic and political establishment of Europe. The meeting was quite successful with 150 people being present.
The event concluded with a common declaration that was also signed by the Association of Mutual Assistance Among Debtors of Rethymno (Crete, Greece).
Note1. The Spanish Platform of People Affected by Public and Social Housing is a member of a wider Platform that is spread all over Spain and has mobilized thousands of people already. The Greek Association of Mutual Assistance Among Debtors of Rethymno is for the moment restricted only in Crete but has already stopped through mobilizations around 850 foreclosures.
Note2. Cadres of the Left Wing are now present in all town committees as well as in the pan Cyprian Coordinating Committee.
COMMON DECLARATION of SPANISH – CRETE – CYPRUS MOVEMENTS AGAINST FORECLOSURES
The conditions in Europe are changing. The feeling of fear and fatalism that has been created by the ongoing attacks of the European economic and political institutions against the peoples of Europe, gives its place to a will for reaction and struggle.
More and more European citizens are rallying in major social movements that are constantly popping up in every corner of the European continent, movements that through shortages of all kinds, difficulties and mistakes, raise their stature and require a change of direction.
Within the framework of the new conditions, the Cyprus Movement Against Foreclosures organized public events on the 24th and the 25th October in the two major cities of Cyprus in which the main speaker was a representative of the Spanish Movement Against Foreclosures. The event of the 25th was also greeted by a Portuguese member of the European Parliament.
The first joint event by the movements against the foreclosures of two different countries of Europe is now a fact. The exchange of experiences as well as the possibility of joint action are converted into a realistic perspective that has the potential to alter the European balance of forces in a decisive manner. To this end, we have already moved into sealing cooperation with the Association of Mutual Assistance Among Debtors of Rethymno in Crete (Greece), and seeking cooperation with similar movements in any other European country.
The policies of the Troika, the European Council and the European banks need to be faced through a pan-European coordination of the struggle. The fight against foreclosures does not concern only those at risk of losing their homes, business premises and cultivated land. It is part of the struggle for the protection of the mass of society from the greed of the few.
With the right to housing and work being our flag, we will fight for a different Europe. A Europe that banks in general and all the economic and social institutions will justify their existence through safeguarding the lives of people and not a Europe that sacrifices its people to support its institutions.
- Spanish Platform of People Affected by Public and Social Housing
- Association of Mutual Assistance Among Debtors of Rethymno (Crete, Greece)
- Cyprus Movement Against Foreclosures
MOVEMENT AGAINST FORECLOSURES
- BASIC ANALYSIS
The global economic crisis that began in the United States in 2008 was expressed in Cyprus in March 2013 in a dramatic way. From one day to the next the lives of people drastically changed. Uncertainty, a sharp decline in incomes, rising unemployment, the ongoing process of bankruptcies of small and medium sized enterprises, and the increasing problems in agricultural production; all these turned into a key element of everyday life.
Everything that was considered to be a fundamental right in our lives is now under threat: the right to health, education for our children, dignity in retirement, even the right to housing and employment. At the same time, all those in charge of our political and economic establishment, from the banks to the state and political power structure, talk and behave as if nothing has changed. They talk about the rights of the banks and the obligations of the borrowers, the same way they spoke at the time there was no unemployment.
They warn the borrowers that they will face foreclosures if they don?t meet their obligations towards the banks, when they deprived the borrowers of the right to work and entrepreneurship by strangling the economy.
They refer to the rights of the banks at the same time as the economy and society were led to a collapse through a scandalous financial management in which the banks have a huge share of responsibility.
There is an effort by those in political and economic power to cultivate a feeling of guilt in the citizen and borrower for being responsible for an impending economic collapse if they do not accept becoming homeless. This at a time when the Cypriot economy has undergone a criminal blow through decades of underinvestment in actual production, has seen the dissolution of its manufacturing industry and the abandonment of its agricultural production.
Investment in real production decreased steadily and the resources of society were channeled towards local and international gambling, towards the purchasing of titles of the most dubious value for quick profit.
The banking and financial collapse occurred when there was no question of non-performing loans, at least at the level of housing and small enterprises. Non-performing loans emerged when the crisis led to mass unemployment and ever increasing bankruptcies of small and medium size enterprises.
We live in a state of emergency
The state must find ways to address the crisis and thus to support the community, the ordinary people. And this can be achieved only through an expansionary economic policy that will facilitate the opening of new jobs and put a decisive end to the vicious cycle of increasing unemployment, increasing non-performing loans, further deterioration of the crisis and rising unemployment.
All those who use the possibility of bankruptcy as an argument to support the foreclosure of residential estates and small business offices, should instead focus their attention towards the implementation of an expansionary economic policy; and seek the reasons why such policies were abandoned for decades and replaced by international banking/gambling.
Instead, the policies they follow deprive the economy of any possibility to return to growth again, paving the way for rampant unemployment. At the same time they call for people to pay for the bank bailout, to pay for the crisis by losing their houses, small commercial estates and land.
The political establishment supports policies which have devastating effects on the lives of people and which are completely unable to solve the problem at hand. The function of the banks is central to any economy because banks are irreplaceable in facilitating economic transactions and, thus, economic development. But when banks are rescued with huge social costs and at the same time households and businesses forced to go bankrupt, then by definition the direction followed is fundamentally wrong.
New Law On Foreclosures
In the middle of this summer, the government tried to pass a law in regard to foreclosures, a law that includes changes in relation to the old one, which are, without exception, all in the direction of giving to the banks an absolute control on the process. Despite the much-announced exceptions in regard to residential and small business estates, not one word of the exceptions is to be found in the entire law.
The new legislation would lead a huge number of our countrymen and women losing tens and hundreds of thousands of euros that they have paid for their home or professional premises, the property itself, at the same time will remain in debt to the banks with the debt being transferred to their offspring.
The dimensions of social analgesia exhibited by the cabinet constructing and approving such a bill are unprecedented, especially considering that the Cypriot banks went bankrupt not because the debtors did not pay their debts, but because the bank managers handled the deposits of the people with frivolity and greed. They went bankrupt because bankers bled the banks themselves with their high salaries and fabulous bonuses. They went bust because they gave loans to their cronies without control and without safeguards.
As a result of the reaction of society the House of Commons was forced to promote a series of bills to protect vulnerable groups, showing that the question could not be treated lightly by the opposition parties, showing that the mobilization of society had the ability to deliver results. The whole campaign that preceded the government bill, especially the battle of the Union and Social movements Platform “Society Reacts and Struggles” had an impact that none could ignore.
Government Manouvers to Defy Public Opinion
In a complex parliamentary process the government got its draft legislation approved with minor modifications, while by appealing to the Supreme Court they were able to cancel all the clauses that provided protection to residential houses and small and medium size professional premises.
The immediate task at hand now is to mobilize the people in support of the implementation of all protective legislation. The mobilization of the people is the only way to force the government and the Troika (IMF, European Central Bank and the European Commission – ed) to step back and to turn towards the holders of wealth in search of the necessary funds to support the state and the banks, rather than chasing the victims of the crisis.
We call on the opposition parties to defend the bills they voted for and not succumb to the blackmail of the government, which in essence is the Troika?s blackmailing threat of non-payment of the next bailout installment.
But there is an answer to all this. In today’s Europe in which we participate as a country, we can and should make the appropriate alliances to institutionalize the protection of vulnerable groups in Europe as a whole, to overthrow the neoliberal policies of the Memoranda.
Already the legality of the Troika has been targeted by various political forces in Europe. A European campaign of all Cypriot MPs who voted in the Cyprus parliament for the protection of vulnerable groups could have the ability to change the political balances that could lead to the dismissal of the Troika and to provide a basis for a different Europe.
The Movement Against Foreclosures declares, in the strongest possible manner, that we will be “present” in this fight, having as a target the maximum possible unity of the union and social movements Platform “Society reacts and Struggles?.
- The control of the banks by the state and society, so that it becomes possible to implement a policy for the benefit of society. Once rescued with money of depositors and taxpayers, it means that they de facto belong to them.
- Adoption of expansionary economic policy and abandonment of the austerity measures that strangle economic activity.
- The freezing of the loans of all unemployed and small business owners whose businesses were driven to bankruptcy.
- Renegotiation of the debt to the banks and to income tax service, of all businesses, including rural, that have gone bankrupt or are on the verge of bankruptcy, so that they become viable.
- Starting with the cases of companies that can become viable by debt restructuring, the state must proceed further with the confiscation of the assets of all owners or shareholders which are not justified by earlier statements to the income tax authority.
- Reduction of the lending rate at EU levels in order to stop over exploitation of the borrowers and to facilitate the restarting of the economy.
- Haircut of loans in proportion to the reduction of revenues and turnover.
- Complete transparency in the accounts of the banks to show who gets what, and how much banks earn. The same applies to the Central Bank, which has a huge responsibility for what has happened.
- Increase of the current tax rate on wealth and on corporations? profits, while introducing tiered taxation.
- Taxation of the church property.
- Collection of the ?6.2 billion that about 20 businessmen owe to the Bank of Cyprus.
- Taxation of the huge funds channeled abroad on the eve of the haircut and a waging of a campaign to repatriate it.
- Suspension of all extra armament programs. All funds saved should be redirected in the real economy
- Confiscation of all extra assets that exist in society and use them to protect the houses of ordinary people, small business estates and agricultural production.