Pensioners wait outside a branch of the National Bank of Greece
Athens - AFP
Greece will maintain capital controls for "months", though the country's shuttered banks will reopen within a week if Athens reaches a bailout deal at an upcoming European Union summit, the country's economy minister said Saturday.
"If there is a deal, banks will reopen very soon, within the week as soon as the ECB (European Central Bank) provides ELA," Giorgos Stathakis told the BBC, referring to the ECB's cash lifeline to Greece known as Emergency Liquidity Assistance.
But, he added, "capital controls will take a few months to be totally removed".
The ECB is currently keeping Greek banks -- and by extension the Greek economy -- afloat via its ELA facility, but it has frozen total aid at 89 billion euros ($99 billion).
Earlier this week the eurozone's central lender actually toughened the conditions for Greek banks to tap the liquidity as talks continued between Athens and its international creditors -- the ECB, EU and IMF.
In Greece, meanwhile, there has been growing alarm at capital controls that have closed banks and rationed cash withdrawals to 60 euros a day at ATMs for nearly two weeks.
On Greek television, Stathakis noted that while the restrictions would stay in place temporarily even if a deal were agreed, transactions between companies would be "restored immediately".
He said that while Greeks would still be prohibited from withdrawing all their cash from bank accounts or exporting foreign currency, controls would be eased on export firms and the maritime sector.
Stathakis added that "a large part" of foreign currency related to the tourism sector would be "liberated".
His remarks came as divided eurozone ministers halted "very difficult" talks on the Greek bailout deal Saturday, with just a day left before a final deadline for an agreement to stop Athens crashing out of the 19-country euro area.