Riot police stand at the entrance of a courtroom where auctions of foreclosed properties are held in Athens, Greece, on Nov. 29, 2017. Auctions of foreclosed properties in Greece resumed on Wednesday both at local courts and via the new introduced platform of electronic auctions, amid clashes of protesters with riot police in Athens and Thessaloniki. (Xinhua/Lefteris Partsalis)
by Alexia Vlachou
ATHENS, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Auctions of foreclosed properties in Greece resumed on Wednesday both at local courts and via the new introduced platform of electronic auctions, amid clashes of protesters with riot police in Athens and Thessaloniki.
After home repossessions in courts across Greece having been blocked for several months, the recommencement of the auctions was met with strong reactions and public uproar.
Riot police guarded the offices of notaries participating in the procedure of electronic auctions. Protesters clashed with riot police at local courtrooms in the Greek capital later in the evening.
Three protesters were reportedly injured during their attempt to block a scheduled property auction at the Athens local court building, after police used tear gas.
"With the use of violence, they prevented us from entering the courtroom. This action makes the auctions performed today, 10 of which were of first residence, invalid and illegal," Leonidas Papadopoulos, founding member of movement "Den Plirono" (I am not paying) told journalists.
"They did not let debtors who were losing their properties today to watch the procedure," he added, saying that every citizen has a right to enter and watch the procedure inside the court.
"In this country, there is a junta of auctions," the head of a far-left out-of-Parliament party, Panayiotis Lafazanis, a one-time SYRIZA minister, told reporters, condemning the use of tear gas against the protesters.
Property auctions in Greece have systematically been blocked by groups of protesters, which also targeted offices of lawyers and notaries involved in the procedure.
Following a series of verbal attacks and threats against them, notaries boycotted foreclosures hearings, requesting protection from the state. Their action had frozen the process of property transfers.
Greek notaries had declared a strike until the end of the year, but they called it off on Monday. They came into an agreement with the Greek government after ensuring their security at proceedings at specific courts.
As Greece's lenders returned for a scheduled review of the country's economic performance this week, the Greek government inaugurated the formula of e-auctions to facilitate banks to reduce nonperforming loans and meet bailout targets.
The long-awaited electronic system was introduced successfully with the first two electronic foreclosures.
"Today's auction was a test for the electronic system that has been created and tested for the first time under real conditions," the president of the notaries, Giorgos Rouskas, told local media.
"The first properties on the block were a cluster of parking slots and a luxury home in an Athens suburb," Rouskas said.
Banks expect the pace of auctions to accelerate in the first quarter of 2018 to around 600-700 monthly, reaching a total of 18,000 properties by the end of the year.
Under bailout conditions Greek banks must settle one out of three bad loans by 2020, meaning non-performing loans should be reduced by some 30 billion euros.