ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The latest news on Greece’s financial woes (all times local):
President Barack Obama and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi are discussing ways to keep Greece in the eurozone.
The two leaders spoke by phone on Wednesday. The White House says Obama and Renzi agreed it’s important to help Greece pursue reforms and financing that will create growth and debt sustainability while staying in the currency union. The leaders also discussed how they’re monitoring broader financial markets amid the crisis in Greece.
Greece has suffered its fourth ratings downgrade this week, as Moody’s investors service slashed the country’s rating from Caa2 to Caa3, or just above default.
The agency said Wednesday Greece was likely to default on its remaining privately held debt due to its impasse with lenders.
“Events of recent months have illustrated the distance between what Greece’s official creditors will demand as a condition of continued support over the coming years, and what Greece’s institutions are able to do to meet those demands,” it said.
“This creates significant difficulties for the achievement of a long-lasting support agreement,” it added.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis says a deal with lenders could be reached after Sunday’s referendum, while blaming creditors for the country’s bank closures.
“This is a very dark moment for Europe. They have closed our banks for the sole purpose of blackmailing what? Getting a “Yes” vote on a non-sustainable solution that would be bad for Europe,” he said in a live interview broadcast on state-run TV Wednesday,.
Despite openly disagreeing with other eurozone ministers, Varoufakis said the two sides remain “very close” on cost-cutting reforms but need to negotiate further to make Greece’s national debt sustainable.
The European Central Bank’s governing council has decided to maintain emergency liquidity funding for Greek banks at the same levels as before, a banking official says.
The ECB has been keeping Greece’s banks on life support while the country’s left-wing government has negotiated for a bailout deal with creditors. Without the money, Greece could default and wind up leaving the euro.
The official said nothing else was decided Wednesday amid speculation that authorities would move to seize Greek bank deposits to ease the country’s debt burden.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the bank’s decisions.
He added that the governing council would convene again when deemed necessary.
Greece’s 2.6 million pensioners have been hit particularly hard by the bank closings this week.
Crowds of anxious, elderly Greeks thronged bank entrances Wednesday, struggling to be allowed to withdraw their maximum of 120 euros ($134) for the week.
Michaelis Kotaras, a 78-year-old retired builder, said the capital controls have made him furious. He says “before these new controls, my wife and I could live easily. Now I’m anxious about money. And Europe wants to cut my pension still more. I am sure that we are dead as a country.”
Many retirees waited for hours only to be told they would have to come back Thursday or Friday. Others were told their pensions had not yet been deposited.
“The way they treat us is very bad,” said 71-year-old Georgios Petropoulos. “I worked for 48 years. I want to take my pension whenever I want. Instead I got 120 euros and they said I might get another 120 euros next week — perhaps.”
By one government estimate, retirees’ income has been cut an average of 40 percent since Greece’s financial crisis began in 2009.
Greece’s conservative opposition leader has raised questions over the legitimacy of Sunday’s referendum after the Council of Europe said the poll will fail to meet international standards.
Comments made to The Associated Press by Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland quickly made headlines Wednesday in Greece. Jagland said the vote was being called too quickly for a true debate on the issue, was being held without international monitors and was posing an unclear question to voters.
In a televised address, conservative leader Antonis Samaras noted that the monitoring group says “there is no guarantee the democratic conditions are present for the Greek people to express their opinion.”
Greeks will vote Sunday whether to back economic measures that creditors have demanded in exchange for loans.
The chairman of the euro group says the 19 nations using the euro currency have decided to break off talks on Greece’s financial bailout until after Sunday’s referendum.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem said late Wednesday that “given the political situation, the rejection of the previous proposals, the referendum which will take place on Sunday, and the recommendation by the Greek government to vote ‘no’, we see no grounds for further talks at this point.”
The Greek government has promised to reopen banks after
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