Greek banks ordered to open tomorrow

ATHENS • The Greek government ordered banks to open tomorrow, three weeks after they were shut down to prevent the system collapsing under a flood of withdrawals, as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras looked to the start of new bailout talks this week.

The decree to re-open the banks came hours after new ministers were sworn in following a Cabinet reshuffle in which Mr Tsipras replaced dissident members of his ruling Syriza party following a revolt over the tough bailout terms.

In a move that marked a split with the main leftist faction in Syriza, Mr Tsipras sacked hardline Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and two deputy ministers following a party rebellion in which 39 Syriza lawmakers withheld support from the government over the package.

Mr Panos Skourletis, a close Tsipras ally who left the labour ministry to take over the vital energy portfolio, said the reshuffle marked "an adjustment by the government to a new reality".

The reshuffle allowed Mr Tsipras to replace Cabinet rebels with allies of his own or from his junior coalition partners, the right-wing Independent Greeks party.

The first action of the new Cabinet was to sign off on a decree to reopen banks tomorrow, with slightly more flexible withdrawal limits that allow a maximum of €420 (S$623) a week in place of the strict limit of €60 a day currently in place.

But restrictions on transfers abroad and other capital controls remain in place.

The move had been widely expected after the European Central Bank agreed to re-open the emergency credit lines, which the tottering Greek banking sector needs to survive the crisis.

Mr Tsipras now intends to seal the bailout accord with European partners over the next few weeks before likely new elections, which Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis said last week could happen in September or October.

"Our aim is to negotiate hard for the terms of the agreement, not just to seal it, but on how it will be implemented. There are many vague terms in the text," said newly-appointed Labour Minister George Katrougalos.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 19, 2015, with the headline 'Greek banks ordered to open tomorrow'. Print Edition | Subscribe