Tsakalotos Says Capital Controls Will Ease Before Elections

FILE - Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

ATHENS – With his ruling Radical Left SYRIZA pulling out all the stops to reverse some austerity it agreed to impose – seeing its popularity plummet – Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tskalotos said capital controls in place for three years would continue to be relaxed and soon ended.

“We will have new easing (of capital controls) very soon,” he told the business newspaper Naftemporiki in an interview without specifying when, but the government – which includes the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) – must hold elections by October, 2019 and is far behind the major rival New Democracy Conservatives.

“With this new easing we will complete the second pillar (of regulations) concerning cash withdrawals and the opening of bank accounts, and we will enter the final phase for the full lifting of capital controls, the third and final pillar … concerning restrictions on moving capital abroad,” he said.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras instituted controls in the summer of 2015 after reneging on an anti-austerity referendum he called that saw Greeks back his call to defy more tough conditions and as he agreed to a third bailout, this one for 86 billion euros ($100.06 billion).

The controls came as he closed banks for three weeks to prevent massive withdrawals that could have seen them collapse and account holders initially were allowed to take only 60 euros ($69.81) a day from ATM’s.

There was near-panic then with fears Greece would be forced out of the Eurozone unless he agreed to the new bailout and more austerity and reports there could even have been confiscation of accounts as happened on Cyprus.

Three rescue packages of 326 billion euros ($379.29 billion) from international creditors ended on Aug. 20 and Greece is living on a cash buffer until it can return to the markets.