Greeks were seen queueing and filing themselves outside banks on Monday morning, as the institutions opened their doors for the first time in three weeks, amidst hopes that the nation in distress would reach a swift accord with its international creditors, on a bailout of its plunging economy.
Limits on cash withdrawals remain in place, but have been loosened. Greeks are now able to withdraw up to €420 (£290) a week in one transaction, rather than being limited to €60 a day. Restrictions on sending money abroad and other controls have not been lifted, the Athens stock market is closed until further notice. Greeks also face price hikes with an increase in VAT.
“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,” Louka Katseli, head of the Greek bank association, said.
Athens has arrived on a cash-for-reforms deal designed to bypass a debt default and an exit from the eurozone.
Meanwhile, Germany has said it is prepared to consider further debt concessions to Greece.
Greece has been allocated a €7.16bn bridging loan from the EU to see it through July. The government is drawing on these funds to make a €4.2bn debt payment to the European Central Bank due on Monday, but the money will have run out by August.
Eurozone leaders hope to conclude talks with Greece by mid-August.
Merkel said, Berlin would “negotiate hard” to ensure Athens stuck to reform agreements, but indicated that Germany would be prepared to grant Greece some debt relief. In an interview with German public broadcaster ARD, she said, there could be flexibility in delaying debt repayments or reducing interest rates, but ruled out debt forgiveness, which she termed “a haircut”.
“Greece has already been given relief. We had a voluntary haircut among the private creditors and we then extended maturities once and reduced interest rates,” the chancellor said.