Greek banks ready to open Monday - long queues expected
Published 19/07/2015 | 15:55
Greek banks expect long queues but no major problems when they reopen on Monday for the first time in three weeks, although withdrawals will still be limited and capital controls will remain, senior banking officials said on Sunday.
The cautious reopening of the banks, and an increase in value added tax on restaurant food and public transport from Monday, are aimed at restoring trust inside and outside Greece after an aid-for-reforms deal last week averted bankruptcy.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is trying to turn a corner after bailout terms he reluctantly accepted prompted a rebellion in his leftist Syriza party.
Read more here: Greece deal highlights the euro's design flaws
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 IMF before elections which Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis said were likely in September or October.
The government on Saturday issued a decree ordering the lenders to pull up their shutters on Monday after they were closed on June 29 to prevent the system collapsing as withdrawals skyrocketed over worries on Greece's debt crisis.
The head of Greece's banking association Louka Katseli urged Greeks, who will be able to withdraw 420 euros a week at once instead of just 60 euros a day, to put their money back.
"Tomorrow when the banks reopen and normality is restored, let's all help our economy. If we take our money out of chests and from our homes - where they are not safe in any case - and we deposit them in the banks, we will strengthen the liquidity of the economy," she told Skai television on Sunday.
Sigmar Gabriel, economy minister of Germany, the biggest contributor to eurozone bailouts, said the deal could succeed where previous ones failed because the European Union now emphasises growth and investment rather than just austerity.
It would depend on reforms being enacted and "convincing the population that this is a path that allows Greece to assert itself rather than becoming a permanent alms-receiver," he said in extracts from a television interview.
French President Francois Hollande, who pushed hard for a deal, said the Greek crisis had weakened Europeans' faith in the European project and revived calls for the creation of a euro zone government.
"What threatens us is not an excess of Europe but its insufficiency," Hollande wrote in an op-ed in the Journal du Dimanche weekly newspaper.
The deal struck at a euro zone summit last week allowed the European Central Bank to top up emergency credit lines which the Greek banking sector needs to survive.
"The banks are ready to open and we don't expect any major problems on Monday," an official at the Central Bank of Greece told Reuters.
As well as getting a weekly limit instead of a daily one, customers will also be able to access their safety deposit boxes and withdraw money without a credit card.
Deposit boxes are not affected by the capital restrictions and clients can therefore take whatever they want from them, bank officials said. But restrictions on transfers abroad and other capital controls remain in place.
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"The banks are ready and they will open all their branches on Monday," a senior official at Piraeus Bank, Greece's second-largest bank by assets, told Reuters.
"There might be queues because many people will want to withdraw money from their deposit boxes."
One official at EFG Eurobank, the country's third-largest bank by assets, said the bank was expecting long queues in the first two or three days.
"We might have some minor problems with bank cheques that have expired in the last two weeks, but this is something that the government should decide on," the official said.
Read more here: 60 of Merkel's MPs rebel over Greek loan
Acceptance of the bailout terms that allowed for the banks to reopen marked a turnaround for Tsipras after months of difficult talks and a referendum that rejected a less stringent deal proposed by the lenders. But opinion polls suggest the prime minister's popularity remains high.
The VAT increases that will come into force from Monday are among a series of reforms demanded by creditors, many of whom have expressed doubt the government would keep its promises.