Greece imposes capital controls as crisis deepens

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
Greece Debt Crisis

Greece moved to check the growing strains on its crippled financial system on Sunday, closing its banks and imposing capital controls that brought the prospect of being forced out of the euro into plain sight.

After bailout talks between the leftwing government and foreign lenders broke down at the weekend, the European Central Bank froze vital funding support to Greece's banks, leaving Athens with little choice but to shut down the system to keep the banks from collapsing.

Banks are expected to be closed all next week, and there will be a daily 60 euro limit on cash withdrawals from cash machines, which will reopen on Tuesday. Capital controls are likely to last for many months at least.

55 PHOTOS
Greece Bailout Bankruptcy
See Gallery
Greece imposes capital controls as crisis deepens
A bank employee distributes tags with queue positions to pensioners as they wait outside the main gate of the national bank of Greece to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) in central Athens, Thursday, July 16, 2015. Greece’s troubled left-wing government is seeking urgent relief from European lenders on Thursday, after it pushed a harsh austerity package thought parliament, triggering a revolt in the ruling party and violent demonstrations in central Athens. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Pensioners wait for the opening of the national bank of Greece to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in central Athens, Thursday, July 16, 2015. Greece’s troubled left-wing government is seeking urgent relief from European lenders on Thursday, after it pushed a harsh austerity package thought parliament, triggering a revolt in the ruling party and violent demonstrations in central Athens. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Pensioners wait for the opening of the national bank of Greece to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in central Athens, on Friday, July 17, 2015. Greece on Thursday won vital pledges of support from bailout lenders needed to keep its economy from collapsing, but officials in Athens said the painful austerity measures demanded in return were likely to force an election within months.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Pensioners wait for the opening of the national bank of Greece to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in central Athens on, Friday, July 17, 2015. Greece on Thursday won vital pledges of support from bailout lenders needed to keep its economy from collapsing, but officials in Athens said the painful austerity measures demanded in return were likely to force an election within months.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Pensioners wait for the opening of the national bank of Greece to withdraw a maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week in central Athens, Thursday, July 16, 2015. Greece’s troubled left-wing government is seeking urgent relief from European lenders on Thursday, after it pushed a harsh austerity package thought parliament, triggering a revolt in the ruling party and violent demonstrations in central Athens. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
People stand in queues as they wait to use the ATMs of two banks, after government's decision for limited daily cash withdrawals to 60 euros, in Athens, Saturday, July 4, 2015. Campaigns halted in Greece on Saturday on the eve of a closely watched bailout referendum — with voters in a dead heat over whether to defy creditors and push for better repayment terms or essentially seek new political leadership to find a compromise. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
People stand in a queue as they wait to use the ATMs of a bank, after government's decision for limited daily cash withdrawals to 60 euros, in Athens, Saturday, July 4, 2015. Campaigns halted in Greece on Saturday on the eve of a closely watched bailout referendum — with voters in a dead heat over whether to defy creditors and push for better repayment terms or essentially seek new political leadership to find a compromise. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
ATHENS, GREECE - JULY 03: Pensioners without ATM cards wait in queue outside a bank branch to withdraw money from their pension funds on July 03, 2015 in Athens, Greece. (Photo by Salih Baran/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Pensioners stand in a queue outside a bank in Athens, Wednesday, July 1, 2015. About 1,000 bank branches around the country were ordered by the government to reopen Wednesday to help desperate pensioners without ATM cards cash up to 120 euros ($134) from their retirement checks. Eurozone finance ministers were set to weigh Greece's latest proposal for aid Wednesday. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
A pensioner looks at customers who use an ATM as she sits outside a bank in Athens, Wednesday, July 1, 2015. About 1,000 bank branches around the country were ordered by the government to reopen Wednesday to help desperate pensioners without ATM cards cash up to 120 euros ($134) from their retirement checks. Eurozone finance ministers were set to weigh Greece's latest proposal for aid Wednesday. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
An employee of a bank gives directions to pensioners in Athens, Wednesday, July 1, 2015. About 1,000 bank branches around the country were ordered by the government to reopen Wednesday to help desperate pensioners without ATM cards cash up to 120 euros ($134) from their retirement checks. Eurozone finance ministers were set to weigh Greece's latest proposal for aid Wednesday. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Pensioners stand in a queue outside a bank in Athens, Wednesday, July 1, 2015. About 1,000 bank branches around the country were ordered by the government to reopen Wednesday to help desperate pensioners without ATM cards cash up to 120 euros ($134) from their retirement checks. Eurozone finance ministers were set to weigh Greece's latest proposal for aid Wednesday. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Pensioners try to get a number to enter inside a bank in Athens, Wednesday, July 1, 2015. About 1,000 bank branches around the country were ordered by the government to reopen Wednesday to help desperate pensioners without ATM cards cash up to 120 euros ($134) from their retirement checks. Eurozone finance ministers were set to weigh Greece's latest proposal for aid Wednesday. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
People line up at ATMs outside a National bank branch in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Monday, June 29, 2015. Anxious Greeks lined up at ATMs as they gradually began dispensing cash again on the first day of capital controls imposed in a dramatic twist in Greece’s five-year financial saga. Banks will remain shut until next Monday, and a daily limit of 60 euros ($67) has been placed on cash withdrawals from ATMs . (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Pensioners wait outside a closed branch of the Greek National bank in Thessaloniki on June 29, 2015 as Greece ordered its banks to shut for one week and imposed capital controls today, sending markets tumbling after its citizens emptied ATMs on the eve of a potentially disastrous default. In a ray of hope, creditors left the door open to Greece for a last-ditch debt deal, in order to try and avert a dangerous default that could spark a Greek eurozone exit and raise serious questions about the future of the European Union. AFP PHOTO / SAKIS MITROLIDIS (Photo credit should read SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 29: People wait in line to withdraw 60 euros from an ATM after Greece closed its banks on June 29, 2015 in Athens, Greece. Greece closed its banks and imposed capital controls on Sunday to monitor the growing strains on its crippled financial system, bringing the prospect of being forced out of the euro into plain sight. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
A man withdraws the withdrawal limit of 60 euros at an ATM machine in Thessaloniki on June 29, 2015 as Greece ordered its banks to shut for one week and imposed capital controls today, sending markets tumbling after its citizens emptied ATMs on the eve of a potentially disastrous default. In a ray of hope, creditors left the door open to Greece for a last-ditch debt deal, in order to try and avert a dangerous default that could spark a Greek eurozone exit and raise serious questions about the future of the European Union. AFP PHOTO / SAKIS MITROLIDIS (Photo credit should read SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Elderly people, who usually get their pensions at the end of the month, wait outside a closed bank in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Monday, June 29, 2015. Greece's five-year financial crisis took its most dramatic turn yet, with the cabinet deciding that Greek banks would remain shut for six business days and restrictions would be imposed on cash withdrawals. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
Pensioners queue outside a closed branch of the Greek National bank in Thessaloniki on June 29, 2015 as Greece ordered its banks to shut for one week and imposed capital controls today, sending markets tumbling after its citizens emptied ATMs on the eve of a potentially disastrous default. In a ray of hope, creditors left the door open to Greece for a last-ditch debt deal, in order to try and avert a dangerous default that could spark a Greek eurozone exit and raise serious questions about the future of the European Union. AFP PHOTO / SAKIS MITROLIDIS (Photo credit should read SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Foreign anti-EU activists protest in front of the Greek parliament in Athens, during a demonstration calling for 'NO' at referendum and for Greece's exit from the eurozone on June 28, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stunned Europe late Friday with a surprise call for a July 5 referendum on the latest cash-for-reforms package and advised voters against backing a deal that he said spelled further 'humiliation'..AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of left wing parties hold placards reading in Greek ''There is no future in the European Union'' during a protest in Athens, Sunday, June 28, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras says the Bank of Greece has recommended that banks remain closed and restrictions be imposed on transactions, after the European Central Bank didn't increase the amount of emergency liquidity the lenders can access from the central bank. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 28: People wait in a queue in front of a bank's ATM to withdraw their cash in Athens, Greece on June 28, 2015. Greeks are anxious about whether the European Central Bank will increase the emergency liquidity assistance, banks can draw on from the country's central bank or not. (Photo by Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 21: Protesters attend an anti-austerity pro-government rally in front of the parliament building on June 21, 2015 in Athens, Greece. Greece's leftwing government believes it can reach a deal with its creditors on Monday. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 21: Greek Presidential Guard conducts his ceremonial march as protesters attend an anti-austerity pro-government rally in front of the parliament building on June 21, 2015 in Athens, Greece. Greece's leftwing government believes it can reach a deal with its creditors on Monday. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 21: Protesters attend an anti-austerity pro-government rally in front of the parliament building in Athens, Greece, June 21, 2015. Greece's leftwing government believes it can reach a deal with its creditors on Monday. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
A girl sits on her father's shoulders as she unfurls the Greek flag during a protest march in solidarity with Greece in the center of Brussels on Sunday, June 21, 2015. Heads of state in the eurogroup will meet in Brussels on Monday for a special summit to discuss the financial crisis with Greece. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Protesters hold national flags during an anti-austerity rally in front of the parliament in Athens, Greece, on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. Greece and its creditors publicly blamed one another for an impasse in bailout talks, on the eve of a eurozone finance ministers' meeting billed as key to their outcome. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrive for their talks at the St. Petersburg International Investment Forum in St.Petersburg, Russia, Friday, June 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
An army contingent stands below a fluttering Greek flag after a hoisting ceremony at the Acropolis hill in Athens, Greece Thursday, June 18, 2015. Greece and its creditors publicly blamed one another for an impasse in bailout talks, on the eve of a eurozone finance ministers' meeting billed as key to their outcome. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras smiles while taking part in a wreath laying ceremony, at the monument for the founder of modern Greek state Ioannis Kapodistrias, in St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, June 19, 2015. Russia is willing to consider giving financial aid to Greece, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said Friday ahead of talks between the leaders of the two countries. (Valentin Yegorshin/Pool Photo via AP)
An army contingent carry a Greek flag in front of the temple of the Parthenon before a hoisting ceremony at the Acropolis hill in Athens, Greece Thursday, June 18, 2015. Greece and its creditors publicly blamed one another for an impasse in bailout talks, on the eve of a eurozone finance ministers' meeting billed as key to their outcome. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis , left, speaks with Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde during a round table meeting of eurogroup finance ministers at the European Council building in Luxembourg on Thursday, June 18, 2015. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pressing Greece to deliver on commitments to carry out reforms, stressing that she wants the country to remain in the common currency. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Protesters holding national flags take part in an anti-austerity rally in front of the parliament in Athens, Greece, on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. Greece and its creditors publicly blamed one another for an impasse in bailout talks, on the eve of a eurozone finance ministers' meeting billed as key to their outcome. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
A pro-euro protester waves a Greek and a European Union flag during a rally in front of the parliament in Athens, Greece, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. More than 5,000 people attended the rally in support of Greece remaining in the euro. About three-quarters of Greeks support keeping the EU's common currency, according to recent polls. Greece and creditors failed to reach an agreement Thursday in troubled bailout talks, with a June 30 deadline looming. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde, left, waits for the start of a media conference after a meeting of eurogroup finance ministers at the European Council building in Luxembourg on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Greece faced intense pressure Thursday from its international creditors to break a deadlock in bailout discussions that’s raised the specter of the country’s imminent bankruptcy and even its exit from the euro. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Pro-euro protesters shout slogans as they wave a European Union flag from the parliament during a rally in Athens, Greece, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. More than 5,000 people attended the rally in support of Greece remaining in the euro. About three-quarters of Greeks support keeping the EU's common currency, according to recent polls. Greece and creditors failed to reach an agreement Thursday in troubled bailout talks, with a June 30 deadline looming. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
Pro-euro protesters wave Greek and European Union flags during a rally in front of the parliament in Athens, Greece, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. More than 5,000 people attended the rally in support of Greece remaining in the euro. About three-quarters of Greeks support keeping the EU's common currency, according to recent polls. Greece and creditors failed to reach an agreement Thursday in troubled bailout talks, with a June 30 deadline looming. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
A pro-euro protester holds a placard which reads: "Yes to Europe", during a rally in front of the parliament in Athens, Greece, on Thursday, June 18, 2015. More than 5,000 people attended the rally in support of Greece remaining in the euro. About three-quarters of Greeks support keeping the EU's common currency, according to recent polls. Greece and creditors failed to reach an agreement Thursday in troubled bailout talks, with a June 30 deadline looming. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)
Dutch Finance Minister and chair of the eurogroup Jeroen Dijsselbloem speaks during a media conference after a meeting of eurogroup finance ministers at the European Council building in Luxembourg on Thursday, June 18, 2015. Greece faced intense pressure Thursday from its international creditors to break a deadlock in bailout discussions that’s raised the specter of the country’s imminent bankruptcy and even its exit from the euro. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 3: A Greek flag billows in the wind on the Acropolis Hill on June 3, 2015, in Athens, Greece. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to be presented with the international creditors' plan of tough economic reforms for Greece in order to unlock 7.2 billion Euros of rescue loans later today. It is unclear whether Greece will accept the offer, as Tsipras has previously called for his own proposals to be considered by the creditors (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 15: View of the index in the Hellenic Exchange office on June 15, 2015 in Athens, Greece. The European Commission has said that Greece and its international creditors need to come to an agreement within the next 2 weeks to avoid a possible default, after weekend talks collapsed. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 15:.Woman pass by Hellenic Exchange office in Athens on June 15, 2015 in Athens, Greece. The European Commission has said that Greece and its international creditors need to come to an agreement within the next 2 weeks to avoid a possible default, after weekend talks collapsed. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images))
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 15: View of the index in the Hellenic Exchange office on June 15, 2015 in Athens, Greece. The European Commission has said that Greece and its international creditors need to come to an agreement within the next 2 weeks to avoid a possible default, after weekend talks collapsed. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
Greece's Deputy Foreign Minister for international economic relations, Euclid Tsakalotos, arrives at the Prime minister's office for an emergency meeting, in Athens, Monday, June 15, 2015. Tsipras held an meeting with the team of Greek bailout negotiators, and said the talks had stalled on demands by the creditors — the other eurozone states and the IMF — for a new round of pension cuts, which his government rejected.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A woman walks past Bank of Greece headquarters in central Athens on June 15, 2015. Athens will patiently wait until its creditors become realistic, Greece's premier said, a day after last-ditch talks between the two sides collapsed and raised fears that Athens would default and exit the eurozone. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A man reads a newspaper outside a kiosk selling souvenir bags in the Monastiraki tourist district of Athens on Monday, June 15, 2015. The European Commission said Sunday that weekend talks to find common ground between international creditors and Greece were unsuccessful and left a wide rift that needs to be closed within two weeks to avoid a possible Greek default.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 15: Locals visit the Green market on June 15 2015 in Athens, Greece. The European Commission has said that Greece and its international creditors need to come to an agreement within the next 2 weeks to avoid a possible default, after weekend talks collapsed. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 15: Pensioners play backgammon in front of closed shop on June 15, 2015 in Athens, Greece. The European Commission has said that Greece and its international creditors need to come to an agreement within the next 2 weeks to avoid a possible default, after weekend talks collapsed. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 15: Women buy on cheep clothing at a flea market on June 15 2015 in Athens, Greece. The European Commission has said that Greece and its international creditors need to come to an agreement within the next 2 weeks to avoid a possible default, after weekend talks collapsed. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
A Greek flag is seen in a mini market in central Athens on Monday, June 15, 2015. The European Commission said Sunday that weekend talks to find common ground between international creditors and Greece were unsuccessful and left a wide rift that needs to be closed within two weeks to avoid a possible Greek default.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A man walks past graffiti featuring the word 'Time' but using the Euro sign in place of the letter 'e'on a wall in Athens on June 15, 2015. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras insisted in an oped piece in a Greek newspaper on June 15, 2015 that Athens would 'wait patiently' until the International Monetary Fund and the European Union became 'more realistic', a day after last-ditch talks between the two sides collapsed, bringing the threat of a Greek exit from the euro closer than ever. AFP PHOTO/ LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
An elderly men stands outside the Athens central market on June 15, 2015. Athens will patiently wait until its creditors become realistic, Greece's premier said, a day after last-ditch talks between the two sides collapsed and raised fears that Athens would default and exit the eurozone. AFP PHOTO/ Louisa Gouliamaki (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 15: Local people pass by graffiti that says 'Greece vs Everybody' on June 15, 2015 in Athens, Greece. The European Commission has said that Greece and its international creditors need to come to an agreement within the next 2 weeks to avoid a possible default, after weekend talks collapsed. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
People read newspaper's headlines in central Athens on June 15, 2015. Athens will patiently wait until its creditors become realistic, Greece's premier said, a day after last-ditch talks between the two sides collapsed and raised fears that Athens would default and exit the eurozone. AFP PHOTO/ Louisa Gouliamaki (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

"The more calmly we deal with difficulties, the sooner we can overcome them and the milder their consequences will be," a somber-looking Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in a televised address. He promised bank deposits would be safe and salaries paid.

Even as Tsipras spoke, the lines forming at petrol stations and in front of the shrinking number of bank machines that still contained cash highlighted the scale of the disaster facing Greeks, who have endured more than six years of economic decline.

The failure to reach a deal with creditors leaves Greece set to default on 1.6 billion euros of loans from the International Monetary Fund that fall due on Tuesday. Athens must repay billions of euros to the European Central Bank in the coming months.

The impending default on the IMF loans leaves Greece sliding toward a euro exit with unforeseeable consequences for Europe's grand project to bind its nations into an unbreakable union by means of a common currency. It also carries broad implications for the global financial system.

After months of wrangling, Greece's exasperated European partners have put the blame for the crisis squarely on Tsipras' shoulders. The 40-year-old premier caught them by surprise in the early hours of Saturday by rejecting the demands of lenders and calling a bailout referendum.

The creditors wanted Greece to cut pensions and raise taxes in ways that Tsipras has long argued would deepen one of the worst economic crises of modern times in a country where a quarter of the workforce is already unemployed.

After announcing the referendum, Tsipras asked for an extension of Greece's existing bailout until after the July 5th vote. Euro zone officials refused, and in his televised address Tsipras bemoaned the refusal as an "unprecedented act".

Despite the hardening of positions, officials around Europe and the United States made a frantic round of calls and organized meetings to try to salvage the situation.

U.S. President Barack Obama called German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and senior U.S. officials urged Europe and the IMF to come up with a plan to hold the single currency together and keep Greece in the euro zone. The German and French governments announced emergency political meetings.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls urged the Greeks to come back to the negotiating table.

"I cannot resign myself to Greece leaving the euro zone ... We must find a solution," Valls told Europe 1, Le Monde and iTELE in a joint interview.

SAFE HAVENS SOUGHT

The euro fell sharply against the dollar and safe-haven U.S. government debt futures rallied as investors exhibited fears of a Greek default and exit from the euro zone.

"That is going to have a real big impact on markets and that will generate increased volatility," said Ian Stannard, European head of FX strategy at Morgan Stanley in London.

The euro EUR= fell nearly 2 U.S. cents to a one-month low in early Asia Pacific trade. The fear of contagion produced a sharp move into safe-haven government debt. U.S. 10-year Treasury futures rose 1 27/32 in active trading early.

The bank holiday announced by Tsipras is expected to last at least until Monday, July 6, the day after the planned referendum. The Athens stock exchange will be closed as the government tries to manage the financial fallout.

It remains unclear how long capital controls will remain in force. In Cyprus, which imposed similar measures in 2013, they were not fully lifted until April of this year.

Tsipras faces growing political pressure with opinion polls suggesting a majority of Greeks could turn their back on his call to reject the bailout and instead decide to support the lenders' package in next Sunday's referendum.

If they do, he would face pressure to resign, leaving the way open for new elections.

Former conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who on Sunday met Greek head of state President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, said Tsipras should drop the referendum plans and return to the negotiations or make way for a government of national unity.

RELATED COVERAGE
› U.S. urges Europe, IMF to reach a deal to keep Greece in euro zone
› Macedonia tells banks to pull money from Greece
› Greek tourism draws line in the sand over tax hikes

As speculation of capital controls have increased over the past two weeks, Greeks have pulled billions of euros out of their accounts. Long queues formed in supermarkets on Saturday as shoppers stocked up on essentials.

Greece's top refiner, Hellenic Petroleum, said it had enough fuel reserves on hand to last for many months, but there were reports of long queues forming at petrol stations as motorists rushed to fill up.

The broader consequences for Greece's economy, now back in recession, are likely to be severe, with the tourism sector, which accounts for almost a fifth of economic output, about to start its vital summer season.

Travel companies had been warning tourists for some weeks that they should be prepared to take extra cash, given the likelihood of problems with the system. But the sight of cash machines that had run dry was a visible shock to many tourists.

"I am trying to go over to the bigger banks," said Cassandra Preston, a Canadian tourist who was searching around in central Athens for a machine that had cash. "I am here for another month and I would like to make sure I have some cash on me."

Many leading economists have voiced sympathy with the Greek government's argument that further cuts in spending risk choking off the growth that would give Greece some prospect of servicing debts worth nearly twice its annual national income.

However, in economic powerhouse Germany, other southern states that have endured austerity in return for EU cash and poor eastern countries with living standards much lower than Greece's, many voters and politicians have run out of patience.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble openly questioned the solvency of Greek banks, a key condition to qualify to receive such finance.

"The ECB has always said that as long as Greek banks are solvent, then emergency loans, the ELA, can be granted," he said on Saturday. "And now there is naturally a new situation that because of the developments the liquidity and solvency of Greek banks, or some Greek banks, could be in doubt."

Read Full Story
Credit Card Compare

Credit Card Compare

Whether you're looking for great travel rewards or low annual fees, find the card that's right for you.

Compare Now

From Our Partners