Banks finally open in Greece

Banks in cash-strapped Greece opened Monday for the first time in three weeks.  Bank customers will be allowed to make a single withdrawal of 420 euro ($455) a week, instead of just 60 euro ($65) in daily withdrawals.  However, restrictions on cash transfers abroad will remain in place.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has again rejected proposals to write off part of Greece’s debt, but says her government will show flexibility in new talks about how Athens structures its bailout repayments.

Speaking Sunday on German television, the chancellor also ruled out forcing Greece to leave the 19-nation eurozone.  She told German lawmakers Friday that a temporary Greek exit would lead to “predictable chaos.”

Referring to the limits on Greek bank customers, Merkel told German public broadcaster ARD, “That’s not a normal life, so we have to negotiate quickly” in upcoming talks on a third European bailout of about $95 billion.

She also said Germany – the largest bailout lender – will do all it can to bring talks on the new relief to a successful conclusion, while gaining assurances that Greece meets new repayment terms.

In Athens, embattled Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faces new parliamentary challenges this week, as his administration seeks approval of the new wave of reforms demanded by European creditors in exchange for more loans.

The pro-government newspaper Avgi called Wednesday’s vote a “crash test” for the ruling Syriza party that could determine whether the Tsipras government survives or whether the prime minister is forced to resign.

The Tsipras coalition holds 162 seats in the 300-member parliament.  But in a pivotal vote last week on new spending cuts, only 123 coalition lawmakers supported the measures, just three votes more than necessary to sustain a minority government.

Nearly one quarter of Syriza lawmakers failed to support that reform bill, which nonetheless passed when opposition parties joined in to approve further reforms.