Greek banks reopen as Tsipras eyes return to normal
Updated: 2015-07-20 17:17
A National Bank official opens the door of a bank branch while people wait to enter in Athens, Greece July 20, 2015.[Photo/Agencies]
ATHENS - Greeks queued outside banks on Monday as they reopened three weeks after closing to stop the system collapsing, the first cautious sign of a return to normal after a deal to start talks on a new package of bailout reforms.
However limits on withdrawals will remain and payments and wire transfers abroad will still not be possible - a situation which German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday was "not a normal life" and warranted swift negotiations on a new bailout, expected to be worth up to 86 billion euros.
The stock market will also remain closed until further notice. Increases in value added tax agreed under the bailout terms have also taken effect with VAT on food and public transport jumping to 23 percent from 13 percent.
The bank closures were the most visible sign of the crisis that took Greece to the brink of falling out of the euro earlier this month, potentially undermining the foundations of the single European currency.
Their reopening followed Tsipras acceptance of a tough package of bailout demands from European partners but a party revolt has threatened the stability of his government and government officials have said that new elections may be held as early as September or October.
Queues formed outside bank branches in central Athens as long-suffering Greeks waited to take care of business frozen during the three week-long bank holiday.
"Things are better than the last few weeks. Thank God we didn't end up with the drachma!" said 62-year-old pensioner Maria Papadopoulou. "I came to pay bills and my taxes today. Last week I couldn't and all of this is very tiring for the older people like me."
Limits on cash withdrawals have been made slightly more flexible, with a weekly limit of 420 euros in place of the daily 60 euro limit previously.
"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," said Louka Katseli, head of the Greek bank association.
Greeks will be able to deposit cheques but not cash, pay bills as well as have access to safety deposit boxes and withdraw money without an ATM card.
Bankers said there may be minor disruptions after the three-week interruption to services but they expected services to resume largely as normal.