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Greece Confirms Banks Will Re-open Monday


Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, right, reacts as he sits next to Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos during a parliamentary session in Athens, Greece, July 15, 2015.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, right, reacts as he sits next to Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos during a parliamentary session in Athens, Greece, July 15, 2015.

A senior Greek official confirmed on Thursday that banks would reopen on Monday and said the government was looking into allowing people to bunch 60 euro withdrawals over several days.

"From Monday, the services offered will be widened," Deputy Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas told ERT television. "All the banks everywhere will be open."

A senior Greek banker had told Reuters earlier on Thursday that the lenders, closed since June 29, would reopen after the European Central Bank decided to increase emergency funding.

Depositors have been limited to 60-euro-a-day ($67) withdrawals at streetside cash machines. But as the banks reopen, the government said the restrictions likely will be relaxed to an undisclosed weekly limit.

Referring to the current daily withdrawal limit imposed as part of capital controls, Mardas said, "If someone doesn't want to take 60 euros on Monday and wants to take it on Tuesday, for instance, he can withdraw 120 euros, or 180 on Wednesday."

He added, "This is a proposal we are processing and we think it's technically possible."

Financial lifeline

Greece won a financial lifeline Thursday from its European neighbors, with eurozone finance chiefs agreeing to hand Athens a short-term loan to meet its immediate debts and also open talks on a new three-year, $94-billion bailout.

The finance ministers in Europe's 19-nation euro currency bloc took the actions just hours after Greek lawmakers approved tough austerity reforms demanded by Athens' creditors. The pension cuts and tax increases were adopted after a contentious debate inside parliament and police clashes with anti-austerity protesters outside on the streets of Athens.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the European Union will hand Greece the short-term loan that will allow it to make a $4.6 billion loan payment it owes the European Central Central Bank on Monday. He did not disclose the size of the loan.

At the same time, the central bank said it would raise the cap on its emergency funding for Greek banks by $978 million, which may allow them to reopen soon after being shut for two weeks.

The banks were closed for fear of a run on deposits as debt-wracked Greece neared a financial collapse while negotiating terms of a new austerity-for-cash deal with Europe's leaders and its lenders. Depositors have been limited to 60-euro-a-day withdrawals ($67) at street-side cash machines.

Central bank President Mario Draghi told a news conference in Frankfurt that it is "uncontroversial" that Greece needs relief from its massive debt of several hundred billion dollars. But Germany, the eurozone's main economic power, is opposed to an outright cut in the Greek debt while opening the door to easing its loan repayment terms.

Greece's ruling Syriza party was able to pass the unpopular austerity measures on a vote of 229-64 with support from pro-European opposition parties. Prominent Syriza party members were among the 38 members who dissented, including Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

Demanding terms

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told lawmakers shortly before the vote that he had no choice but to accept the demanding terms of Greece's creditors. "We don't believe in it, but we are forced to adopt it," he said.

In order for Greece to secure bailout funds, the agreement must now go before the parliaments of some of the 18 other members of the eurozone. Germany is set to vote on Friday.

Earlier, anti-austerity demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails at police guards in front of the parliament building.

Police responded with tear gas, sending the protesters scurrying into Syntagma Square. The violence marred otherwise peaceful protests as at least 10,000 people marched through Athens to protest the austerity measures.

Greek pharmacists had pulled down the shutters to their stores in protest of the proposed reforms Wednesday, while civil servants walked off their jobs. But one survey of Greeks showed 70 percent support for the bailout plan.

The bill passed early Thursday specifies new taxes, pension reforms and tighter supervision of government finances.

Some information for this report came from Reuters.

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