Greek banks ready to open Monday as Merkel urges swift bailout talks

Sun Jul 19, 2015 7:13pm EDT
 
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By Costas Pitas and Lefteris Papadimas

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek banks are ready to open their branches across the country on Monday after a three-week shutdown, officials said, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for swift aid talks so Athens could also lift withdrawal limits.

The cautious reopening of the banks, and an increase in value added tax on restaurant food and public transport from Monday, are aimed at restoring trust inside and outside Greece after an aid-for-reforms deal last week averted bankruptcy.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is trying to turn a corner after he reluctantly agreed to negotiate a third bailout, allowing the European Central Bank to top up bank credit lines but prompting a rebellion in his leftist Syriza party.

"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," the head of Greece's banking association Louka Katseli told Skai television.

Greeks will be able to withdraw 420 euros a week at once instead of just 60 euros a day, but the limit will effectively remain the same and capital controls will also stay in place.

"That's not a normal life so we have to negotiate quickly," Merkel said in extracts from an interview with German public broadcaster ARD.

Merkel said it would be possible to talk about changing the maturities of Greece's debt or reducing the interest Athens has to pay after the first successful review of the new bailout package to be negotiated.

Berlin, the biggest contributor to eurozone bailouts, would do all it could to bring talks to a successful conclusion but would "negotiate hard" to ensure Athens stuck to agreements, she said.   Continued...

 
Women withdraw money from an ATM outside a National Bank branch in Athens, Greece, July 19, 2015.  REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou