Banks reopen in Greece after three-week shutdown

Banks reopen in Greece after three-week shutdown

ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
Banks reopen in Greece after three-week shutdown

People wait to enter a Piraeus Bank branch at the city of Iraklio in the island of Crete, Greece July 20, 2015. Reuters Photo

Greek banks reopened July 20 after a three-week shutdown imposed by the government to avert a crash in the banking system over the country’s debt crisis.

Capital controls in force since June 29 remain in place, although a daily cash withdrawal limit of 60 euros ($65.03) has now been relaxed.

Louka Katseli, the head of Greece’s bank association, said Greeks would now be able to withdraw a maximum of 300 euros at one go until July 24, when a new weekly limit of 420 euros will come in force.

She also urged Greeks to bring their savings back to the banks.

“If we take out the money from our safes and our houses, where, in any case, it isn’t safe, and we deposit it in the banks, we will reinforce liquidity,” she told the Mega TV channel.

Some 40 billion euros have been withdrawn from Greek banks since December, she noted, seriously damaging their ability to function normally.

But for two customers waiting outside a branch of Alphabank in central Athens, there were more immediate concerns.

Maria had come to settle an electricity bill she had been unable to pay during the bank closure, while Grigoris, a 76-year-old pensioner, was seeking to withdraw the new maximum cash allowance for the week.

He was disappointed that the new 420-euro limit will not come in place until the weekend.     

“I’ve been told I’ll have to wait until Friday to take out that sum,” he said.

Greeks will also now be able to start using their credit cards for foreign purchases again.

Some exceptions to the capital controls have also been introduced, including a move to allow bank transfers of up to 5,000 euros per quarter to young Greeks studying abroad, while Greeks receiving medical care in other countries will be able to take out 2,000 euros a day.

But for most Greeks, the capital controls remain in place: they cannot transfer money abroad, take out large sums, or open new bank accounts.

The measures have cost the Greek economy some three billion euros, according to the center-right Kathimerini newspaper, not least due to lost income from the country’s crucial tourism sector.