Greek banks to open Monday as Tsipras prepares for another vote

A man withdraws money at an Alpha Bank branch ATM in central Athens, Greece on July 19, 2015.
A man withdraws money at an Alpha Bank branch ATM in central Athens, Greece on July 19, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

ATHENS (BLOOMBERG) - Greek banks reopen Monday three weeks after they were shut down to prevent their collapse, as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras prepares for a second parliamentary vote crucial to securing a bailout.

Greeks will regain access to some basic bank services, including the ability to deposit checks and access safe deposit boxes. Although customers will continue to face restrictions on cash withdrawals, the daily limit of 60 euros (S$89) will be replaced by a cumulative maximum of 420 euros a week.

The Athens Stock Exchange, which had also been closed during the month-long confrontation between Greece and its creditors, is expected to reopen, as trading was suspended only until the bank holiday ended. A spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment.

Mr Tsipras is seeking discussions with euro-zone governments on a third bailout after Greek lawmakers went along with their demands for more economic overhauls. Hours after the vote early Thursday, the European Central Bank approved emergency financing for the country's lenders.

The European Union followed on Friday with 7 billion-euro bridge loan to keep the country afloat during negotiations on a three-year rescue program worth as much as 86 billion euros. The loan will help cover a 3.5 billion-euro payment to the European Central Bank that falls due Monday.

The Greek government still faces a parliamentary vote Wednesday on a second package of prerequisites for further financial assistance, including tax increases on farmers. Last week's vote prompted some members of the Syriza party to rebel, forcing Mr Tsipras to reshuffle his cabinet on Friday.

Held Hostage

Europe's most indebted country came closer than ever to being forced out of the single currency this month after Mr Tsipras stunned European leaders by calling a snap referendum on spending cuts and tax rises demanded by creditors. Despite a clear majority of Greeks voting "no," he was forced to capitulate to an even more onerous package that European leaders said was the only way for Greece to remain in the euro.

In all, 64 of the parliament's 300 lawmakers voted against the package. Half of the "no" votes came from Syriza, including former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. The level of opposition suggests Mr Tsipras may be forced to rule with a minority government, relying on opposition lawmakers to pass legislation.

Mr Tsipras is "being held hostage by both his lawmakers, who refuse to vote for the measures, and by the opposition, whose support he needs to pass the measures through parliament," said Aristides Hatzis, an associate professor of law and economics at the University of Athens.

The new government will probably last "a maximum of two months," Mr Hatzis said by phone Saturday. "The only way out is elections."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday won support from lawmakers to pursue talks on a third Greek bailout. Germany was among euro-area countries needing to give parliamentary approval for the negotiations. France and Finland did so earlier in the week.

The debate on how the country's debt might be restructured continued with Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan saying one option would be to extend the maturities. His comments came in an interview Sunday in the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

The International Monetary Fund has said Greece's creditors, which include the IMF, should forgive some of the country's debt.