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Thursday 29 September 2016

Greece crisis: Europe moves to restore funding to Greece after bailout vote

* ECB raises emergency funding for Greek banks
* EU set to provide 7 bln euros in bridging finance
* Euro zone ministers agree in principle to start talks
* Greek PM Tsipras hangs on after party rebellion
* Schaeuble questions whether third bailout will ever happen

Lefteris Karagiannopoulos and George Georgiopoulos

Published 16/07/2015 | 19:55

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reacts during a parliamentary session in Athens, Greece July 16, 2015. The Greek parliament passed a sweeping package of austerity measures demanded by European partners as the price for opening talks on a multi-billion euro bailout package needed to keep the near-bankrupt country in the euro zone. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reacts during a parliamentary session in Athens, Greece July 16, 2015. The Greek parliament passed a sweeping package of austerity measures demanded by European partners as the price for opening talks on a multi-billion euro bailout package needed to keep the near-bankrupt country in the euro zone. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Masked anti-establishment youths and anti-austerity protesters are seen through a cloud of tear gas during clashes in Athens, Greece July 15, 2015. Greek anti-establishment protesters threw dozens of petrol bombs at police in front of parliament on Wednesday ahead of a key vote on a bailout deal, in some of the most serious violence in over two years. Police responded with tear gas, sending hundreds of people fleeing in central Syntagma Square. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Riot police stand amongst the flames from exploded petrol bombs thrown by a small group of anti-establishment demonstrators in front of parliament in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
Anti-austerity protesters lift a Greek flag in front of the Greek Parliament in Athens
Riot police stand amongst the flames from exploded petrol bombs thrown by a small group of anti-austerity demonstrators in front of parliament in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Riot police stand amongst the flames from exploded petrol bombs thrown by a small group of anti-establishment demonstrators in front of parliament in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
Riot police run past flames from exploded petrol bombs thrown by a small group of anti-establishment demonstrators in front of parliament in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Riot police stand amongst the flames from exploded petrol bombs thrown by a small group of anti-establishment demonstrators in front of parliament in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Enda Kenny leaves a meeting of eurozone heads at the EU Council building in Brussels
The Greek flag atop the Parliament is seen through a banner held by a protester during an anti-austerity rally organized by the country's biggest public sector union ADEDY in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Europe moved to re-open funding to Greece's stricken economy after the parliament in Athens approved a new bailout programme in a fractious vote that left the government without a majority.

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The European Central Bank increased emergency funding for Greek lenders, although capital controls will have to remain to avoid a bank run when they reopen on Monday.

European Union finance ministers also approved €7bn in bridging loans to keep Greece afloat, allowing it to make a bond payment to the ECB next Monday and clear its arrears with the International Monetary Fund.

The loans will be finalised on Friday provided Germany's parliament approves a Berlin government request to open talks on a three-year bailout programme - Greece's third in the past five years - worth up to 86 billion euros.

The twin lifelines were a reward for Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras after he won the backing of parliament in the early hours of Thursday for the tough reform measures demanded by creditors led by Germany.

But Tsipras was left weakened by a revolt in his left-wing Syriza party and is expected to reshuffle his cabinet to replace four ministers and deputy ministers who rebelled.

Read more: Greece crisis: Snap election may be called for September/October - interior minister

Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis said a snap election could be held in September or October, "depending on developments".

Masked anti-establishment youths and anti-austerity protesters face riot police during clashes in Athens
Masked anti-establishment youths and anti-austerity protesters face riot police during clashes in Athens
Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos reacts during a parliamentary session in Athens, Greece July 15, 2015. A lot of the measures in a deal struck with Greece's lenders will have a recessionary effect but removing the prospect of a "Grexit" will help offset their impact and bring in investments, Tsakalotos said on Wednesday. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou
Greek Presidential guards conduct their ceremonial march past a banner held by protesters during an anti-austerity rally organized by the country's biggest public sector union ADEDY in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Riot police run as they disperse protesters during clashes in Athens, Greece July 15, 2015. Greek anti-establishment protesters threw dozens of petrol bombs at police in front of parliament on Wednesday ahead of a key vote on a bailout deal, in some of the most serious violence in over two years. Police responded with tear gas, sending hundreds of people fleeing in central Syntagma Square. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, second right, speaks with Luxembourg's Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna , right, and other ministers during a meeting of EU finance ministers at the EU Council building in Brussels on Tuesday, July 14, 2015. British Treasury chief George Osborne arrived to a EU meeting of finance minister with a clear message, don't expect Britain, which is not part of the euro, to pay for any of Greece's rescue money. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Protesters gather in front of the Greek Parliament during an anti-austerity rally organized by the country's biggest public sector union ADEDY in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
Syrian refugees walk through a field near the village of Idomeni at the Greek-Macedonian border, July 14, 2015. The United Nations refugee agency said that Greece urgently needed help to cope with 1,000 migrants arriving each day and called on the European Union (EU) to step in before the humanitarian situation deteriorates further. More than 77,000 people have arrived by sea to Greece so far this year, more than 60 percent of them Syrians, with others fleeing Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea and Somalia, it said. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis
People demonstrate in front of the stairs leading to the Greek parliament in Athens during an anti-EU demonstration in Athens calling for a 'NO' to any agreement with the creditors on July 13, 2015. Eurozone leaders struck a deal Monday on a bailout to prevent debt-stricken Greece from crashing out of the euro, forcing Athens to push through draconian reforms in a matter of days. AFP PHOTO / ANDREAS SOLAROLOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images
Demonstrators gather near the Greek Parliament during a rally against the government's agreement with its creditors in Athens, in central Athens, Tuesday, July 14, 2015. The eurozone's top official says it's not easy to find a way to get Greece a short-term cash infusion that will help it meet upcoming debt repayments. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Anti-Euro protesters march through the streets during an anti-austerity rally in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou
A protester attracts a swarm of photographers as she burns a Syriza flag outside the Greek parliament in Athens
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrives at his office in Athens just after flying in from Brussels
Anti-Euro protesters march through the streets during an anti-austerity rally in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou
A man walks by a mural in Athens, Greece July 14, 2015, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faces a showdown with rebels in his own party furious at his capitulation to German demands for one of the most sweeping austerity packages ever demanded of a euro zone government. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Anti-Euro protesters march through the streets during an anti-austerity rally in Athens, Greece REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, one of Greece's sternest critics, questioned whether Athens would ever get a third bailout, even after the parliamentary vote. He suggested its financing needs were spiralling and a debt "haircut" or write-off - outside the euro zone - might be a better solution.

"We will now see in the negotiations whether there is even a way to get a new programme, taking into account financing needs, which have risen incredibly," Schaeuble told Deutschlandfunk radio.

The move by the Greek parliament was enough to persuade the ECB to raise Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) for the banks by 900 million euros for a week to nearly 90 billion euros.

"Things have changed now," ECB President Mario Draghi told a news conference in Frankfurt. "We had a series of news with the approval of the bridge financing package, with the votes, various votes in various parliaments, which have now restored the conditions for a raise in ELA."

Draghi said it was difficult to make decisions on Greece given the constraints of an ELA programme which was never meant to provide unlimited and unconditional support for a banking system that faces a major overhaul.

A senior banker said Greek banks would reopen on Monday - three weeks after they were shut when Athens imposed capital controls. Cash withdrawals, limited to 60 euros a day, are likely to remain rationed.

"TIMEOUT" BETTER?

Finnish and Lithuanian lawmakers gave their approval to begin negotiations, a day before the German Bundestag is due to decide on the issue.

Schaeuble said he would vote to open talks but underlined the risks still surrounding the negotiations that will be conducted over the next few weeks, saying a temporary Greek "timeout" from the euro may still be a better option.

Read more: Greece crisis: More than 30 Syriza members revolt in bailout deal vote

After a warning from the IMF this week that Greece's massive public debt could not be managed without a significant writedown, Schaeuble said that a debt haircut was incompatible with euro membership and would mean Greece would have to leave the euro, at least temporarily. "But this would perhaps be the better way for Greece," he said.

European finance ministers said after a conference call on Thursday morning they agreed "in principle" to start talks with Greece on the new bailout and also called on Athens to adopt a second set of reforms by July 22.

All 28 EU countries are expected to contribute to the bridge loan, despite the reluctance of non-euro members such as Britain and the Czech Republic, after a compromise was found to use euro zone funds to guarantee their ring-fenced contributions.

Britain accepted the deal after receiving what its finance minister, George Osborne, said was a legally binding deal to protect any British money used in the loan.

The Greek parliament comfortably approved the agreement Tsipras struck on Monday with the euro zone that demands austerity measures and liberal economic reforms tougher than those rejected by voters in a July 5 referendum.

Some of the main measures, including an increase in value-added tax, take effect immediately, although it will be extended to hotels only in October after the peak tourist season.

But 32 of the 149 lawmakers from Tsipras's radical left Syriza party voted against the plan while six effectively abstained and one was absent, meaning he had to rely on opposition votes.

The dissidents also included the speaker of parliament and ex-finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who compared the Brussels deal with the 1919 Versailles Treaty that imposed ruinous reparations on a defeated Germany after World War One.

"FORCED TO ACCEPT"

Tsipras told lawmakers he had accepted a package he did not believe in and which would harm Greece, but the alternative was a disorderly bankruptcy that would be catastrophic.

"I acknowledge the fiscal measures are harsh, that they won't benefit the Greek economy, but I'm forced to accept them," he said before the vote.

Read more: We best get working on a Plan B as the next recession will kill the euro

However his position as prime minister faces no serious internal challenge and there has been little pressure to form a national unity government from the pro-European opposition parties which voted for the bailout.

How long the government will remain in office is unclear. "It is very possible that elections take place in September or October, depending on developments," Interior Minister Voutsis said according to the text of an interview with Sto Kokkino radio released by his office.

The IMF highlighted the issue of debt relief in a report released this week, saying the only alternatives to "deep upfront haircuts" would be for European creditors to grant Athens a 30-year debt service holiday on present and future loans or make large annual fiscal transfers to the Greek budget.

All those options are unpalatable to German and other euro zone creditor governments that do not want to tell their taxpayers that the money lent to Greece is not coming back.

Klaus Regling, head of the euro zone's bailout fund, said he expects it to contribute 50 billion euros to the third bailout.

The rest would come from €16bn in remaining undisbursed IMF funds, once Athens has cleared the arrears, as well as privatisation receipts and possible limited borrowing on financial markets near the end of the three-year programme.

In Athens, cleaners removed overnight the debris of a pitched battle on Syntagma Square outside parliament between black-masked anti-bailout militants and riot police.

Protesters threw dozens of petrol bombs and hurled stones at the police, who responded with clouds of tear gas.

Tsipras won the vote thanks to the support of the centre-right New Democracy, centre-left Pasok and centrist To Potami opposition parties.

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