Greek banks reopen as Tsipras eyes return to normal

This is the first cautious sign of a return to normal after a deal to start talks on a new package of bailout reforms.

However, capital controls will remain and payments and wire transfers abroad will still not be possible – a situation that German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday was “not a normal life” and warranted swift negotiations on a new bailout.

The stock market will also remain closed until further notice.

Queues formed outside bank branches in central Athens as people waited to take care of business frozen during the three week-long bank holiday.

Limits on cash withdrawals have been made slightly more flexible, with a weekly limit of 420 euros in place of the daily 60 euro limit previously.

“Capital controls and restrictions on withdrawals will remain in place but we are entering a new stage, which we all hope will be one of normality,” said Louka Katseli, head of the Greek bank association.

Greeks will be able to deposit cheques but not cash, pay bills as well as have access to safety deposit boxes and withdraw money without an ATM card.

Bankers said there may be minor disruptions after the three-week interruption to services but they expected services to resume largely as normal.

“I don’t expect major problems, our network and the network of our competitors are ready to serve our clients,” said a senior official at Piraeus Bank, one of the big four lenders. “There might be lines because many people will want to withdraw money from their deposit boxes,” the official said.

The bank closures were the most visible sign of the crisis that took Greece to the brink of falling out of the euro earlier this month. But Tsipras is eyeing a fresh start and swift talks on the bailout that will keep Greece afloat.

The tough terms of the bailout will see tax hikes, pension cuts, strict curbs on public spending, an overhaul of collective bargaining rules and a transfer of 50-billion euros of state assets into a special privatisation fund.

In exchange, Greece is hoping to receive loans of up to 86-billion euros.

The decision to reopen banks was the first action by Greece’s new cabinet after the 40-year-old leftist prime minister sacked rebels who had opposed the deal he struck with EU leaders last week.

Increases in value added tax agreed under the bailout terms have also taken effect with VAT on food and public transport jumping to 23% from 13%.

Acceptance of the bailout terms that meant the banks could reopen marked a turnaround for Tsipras after months of difficult talks and a referendum that rejected a less stringent deal proposed by the lenders.

He sacked party rebels in a government reshuffle on Friday and is seeking a swift start to talks on the bailout accord with European partners and the International Monetary Fund before elections which Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis said were likely in September or October. – Reuters

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertisting

South Africa has been junked

Treasury says the credit ratings downgrade “could not have come at a worse time”, as country enters a 21-day Covid-19 lockdown with little money saved up

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories