ECB unlocks funding for Greek banks in latest step of recovery

Jake Cordell
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Greek banks currently have to rely on the Bank of Greece for emergency funding
Greek banks currently have to rely on the Bank of Greece for emergency funding (Source: Getty)

The European Central Bank (ECB) has signalled the latest step in the Greek recovery this afternoon, as it geared up to reinstate emergency funding for Greek banks.

Eurozone banks are usually able to get cheap loans from the ECB under its regular financing operations. However, that help was called in during the 2015 bailout saga as Greece teetered on the brink of being kicked out of the single currency.

The re-opening of the scheme to Greek lenders will go some way to offering a crumb of support for a sector which has been battered under the economic turmoil and terms of the bailout programme. Capital controls have limited withdrawals from Greek banks to €60 a day.

Without access to the ECB funds, banks are forced to borrow from the private market - impossible for some given their poor credit scores and high interest rates demanded by any willing investors - or the Bank of Greece, which charges a higher rate.

Read more: All the reaction to the Greek debt deal

At a meeting of the ECB governing council on Wednesday, president Mario Draghi led his colleagues in voting to extend the waiver on minimum credit rating requirements, which is required to allow Greek banks to use Greek sovereign debt as collateral in exchange for cash funding from the central bank. Since Greek government debt still has a 'junk' rating, banks are not normally able to use it as a downpayment for help from the ECB.

The step is a big recognition of the ECB's commitment to the Greek bailout and the ECB will hope it is enough to encourage Greece to keep its reform programme on track in order to get access to the ECB's quantitative easing programme. Greek bonds are currently not eligible to be snapped by by the ECB in its €80bn a month bond-buying package, although that is expected to come under review later this year.

After last week's agreement by bureaucrats at the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to unlock the latest €7.5bn tranche of Greece's €86bn bailout cash, this summer is looking a lot more cordial for EU-Greece relations than 12 months ago.

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