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European Central Bank shows Greece who plays the boss

05 February 2015 / 11:02:26  GRReporter
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With a surprising decision taken late Wednesday the European Central Bank cornered the government of Alexis Tsipras and showed it that it should be careful with the lenders. The Governing Council of the institution decided that after 11 February it will not cash Greek government bonds the interest rate of which is 0.05% and that Greek banks will be able to rely on liquidity only through the Emergency Liquidity Assistance, the rate of which is significantly higher, namely 1.5%. So, the first 10 days of SYRIZA’s ruling turn out to be very "successful" - the interest rates on the loans have sharply increased and the banks may remain without cash.
     Analysts see symbolism in the selected date, 11 February, when the Eurogroup will hold a special meeting on Greece and associate the midnight decision of Frankfurt with the forthcoming meeting between Greek Minister of Finance Yanis Varoufakis and his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble in Berlin.
     Sources from the Bank of Greece have ensured that there is no risk for the local financial institutions. Herewith we recall that the amount provided for Greek banks through the government bonds was 50 billion euro. The European Central Bank cashed them at a lower interest rate despite the low evaluation of credit rating agencies. This "privileged" attitude towards Greek securities was part of the Memorandum of financial stability of Greece that, during the election campaign, SYRIZA promised to unilaterally cancel.
     The Governing Council of the European Central Bank explained its decision with the fact that it is currently uncertain if the next mission of the lenders, to assess the progress of Greece in terms of the reforms which it has committed to implement, will be completed and how. The Governing Council also stresses that, through its decision, it actually proceeds to the strict application of European rules without giving privileges to any state. This is the effect of the bombastic statements of SYRIZA’s leadership about the end of the Troika.
     The good news for Greek banks is that Frankfurt has decided to extend their financing through the Emergency Liquidity Assistance for another two weeks.    
     The Governing Council of the European Central Bank took its decision several hours after Yanis Varoufakis personally presented to Bank President Mario Draghi his plan to swap Greek debt for new bonds. Sources from Frankfurt say that the attitude of Draghi was negative both towards the "Varoufakis" plan and to the request of the Greek Minister of Finance to allow Greece to increase the amount of issued short-maturity bonds by10 billion euro.
     Still in the first days of its ruling SYRIZA hired one of the most expensive consulting companies worldwide, Lazard, as an advisor in the campaign for the write-off of Greek debt.
     The Greek media reported that after the European Central Bank took its decision at midnight Mario Draghi personally phoned Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to inform him of the developments. It is not clear what Draghi told Tsipras but the latter replied that he would  strictly adhere to the election promises that had led to the powerful approval on the part of Greek voters and to SYRIZA wining a landslide victory in the elections on 25 January.
     for its part, the other lender of Greece, the International Monetary Fund, denied the words of Varoufakis about a secret meeting with former head of the supervisory Troika for Greece Poul Thomsen. "The International Monetary Fund is not in discussions with Greece. There is an agreed framework for dealing with debt in the current programme. Anyway the Fund has never been favourably disposed to radical solutions such as its forgiveness," said the spokesperson for the institution in Washington. The Greek Ministry of Finance has officially confirmed the meeting between Varoufakis and Thomsen in Paris.


Tags: European Central BankGreek banksLiquidityEmergency Liquidity AssistanceMario DraghiYanis VaroufakisSYRIZA government
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