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The European Central Bank began discussions on Sunday to extend emergency financial assistance to Greece. (Photo: Jurjen van Enter/flickr/cc)

Greek Crisis Moving Fast as Emergency Measures Considered

European Central Bank discusses extending emergency support as Greek parliament approves referendum

Nadia Prupis

The European Central Bank (ECB) began discussions on Sunday to extend emergency financial support for Greece as the country moves forward with a referendum on a proposed bailout, at the same time as its current bailout speeds to a June 30 expiration.

In a conference call, the ECB considered whether to extend or scrap Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA), which would keep Greek banks running long enough for the country to hold a popular vote on the bailout deal proposed by foreign creditors. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for the referendum on Saturday after high-stakes negotiations over the financial aid package with creditors, known as the Troika—the ECB, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—fell apart in Brussels, Belgium.


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Meanwhile, Greece's Financial Stability Council announced plans to meet in the afternoon to discuss the country's banking situation. The council consists of Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, his deputy Dimitris Mardas, Central Bank Governor Yiannis Stournaras, and the heads of several financial commissions.

On Sunday, the Guardian's John Hooper said the ECB was facing "one of the most momentous decisions in its brief history" in the ELA discussions.

And it comes not a moment too soon, as the Greek parliament overwhelmingly authorized Tsipras' referendum, which is now set for July 5 and will hand over the decision on accepting or rejecting the Troika's financial aid package—in all its austerity—to the Greek people.

But the most urgent deadline Greece is fast approaching is the possible June 30 expiration of its current bailout. The Guardian reports:

The end of the month is fast approaching, and with it the payment of wages and pensions.

That – and not the bailout expiry – could trigger the closure of the banks and the shutting down of their cash machines, the daily Ta Nea reported today.

But what no one knows is whether – with or without the support of the ECB -- the Bank of Greece has the money to transfer. If not, then the banks may well be shut tomorrow as they prepare for restrictions on depositor withdrawals.

BBC Radio 4 will broadcast a live interview with Varoufakis on Sunday just after 8am EST (3pm in Athens), which is expected to cover the ECB's decision.

This story is developing. Follow live updates at the Guardian.

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