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Sitting on the fence is not acceptable

The General Council of the Judiciary must make its voice heard about the problem of evictions

The serious social problem of the growing numbers of evictions of people who are unable to meet their mortgage payments is, without a doubt, the worst of the many traumas being caused by the current deep and prolonged recession.

The previous government of Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the current administration of Mariano Rajoy have introduced a few partial — albeit well-intentioned — measures to ease the situation, but these have been of scant or nil use since they are reliant on the good will of banks bent on recovering unpaid mortgages. There have also been a few moves in the legal area, such as approving the handing over of the property in question as a means of settling the mortgage. But this is a measure of uncertain judicial future that does not go beyond the specific cases it covers.

A review commissioned by the General Council of the Judiciary — which, incongruently, the institution has declined to make its own because of the opposition of some of its members — proposes a catalogue of measures that for the first time address, in a global manner, a reasonable and acceptable solution for the parties caught up in this social drama, which is threatening to get even worse and cause personal tragedies.

The members opposed to the General Council making this report its own argue that its content goes beyond the reach of its powers. This is a very formalistic and limited interpretation of its function, since nothing is preventing it from making its voice heard, both with respect to other public bodies and society as a whole, on a very serious problem affecting a large number of people that, to a large extent, could be resolved within the law.

Balanced approach

Above all, the report points to measures of a legal nature, but includes others of a decidedly political reach, that by no means could be described as preposterous, such as setting aside a small part of the public funds for the financial sector for mortgage holders with financial problems. It is difficult to see any serious obstacles standing in the way of the establishment of a more balanced approach to mortgages, one that is less severe than that dictated by the current legislation, which has been in place since 1909. Boards should be established that can seek negotiated solutions, and judges should be able to apply moratoria in terms of payments, repayment periods and provisional reductions of interest rates.

If the General Council were to appoint itself an advocate, its prestige would be enhanced in the eyes of the government and the public. Above all, this would help find a solution to a social emergency on which no power or institution of the state should turn its back.

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