Tourists in Greece worry about ATMs and credit cards but most holidays unaffected

30 Jun 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Greece says crisis won’t affect tourists, but Canada urges travellers to bring cash.

SOFIA/SKOPJE: Petar Bakhchevanov withdrew some cash from an ATM in Bulgaria’s capital on Monday as a test to make sure the deepening debt crisis in neighbouring Greece had not spread to the Greek-owned bank where he keeps his savings. Sitting on an upturned vegetable crate and clutching her blue deposit book, Vasiliki, a woman in her 80s, was among the small group of pensioners who had started gathering outside a branch of Alpha Bank in the seaside town of Loutraki on the first day of capital controls in Greece.Thousands of people took to the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki Monday night to protest against the austerity measures Greece’s creditors want the country to adopt in order to be able to repay its massive debt. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images) Greece, at pains to protect one of the economy’s only bright spots, rushed on Monday to assure tourists that their holidays would be untouched by the restrictions imposed to protect the tottering banking system.

Tourists travelling to Greece this summer are being advised to take enough euro in cash to last their entire holiday and cover any emergencies amid fears the country is heading for a financial collapse. Millions of people in ex-Communist Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Serbia and Romania have deposits in banks owned by Greek lenders, putting this corner of south-eastern Europe in the frontline if there is contagion from the Greek crisis. Like the others waiting outside, she said she never figured out how to “use that machine”, pointing towards the branch’s ATM, leaving her dependent on her deposit book for all transactions. The government on Sunday ordered banks to close for a week and imposed capital controls as it lurched toward a default in a dramatic standoff with international creditors who have been keeping the country solvent. Holidaymakers are warned that cash machines in the country are swiftly being emptied and trying to use debit or credit cards may prove futile as businesses desperately try to get hold of cash.

As strict capital controls took root following Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ surprise weekend decision to call a referendum on international creditors’ latest economic proposals, Greece’s population tried to fathom the sheer scale of the impact on their day-to-day existence. That meant she was unable to withdraw cash over the weekend when fears of impending capital controls saw Greeks rush to withdraw as much as ATMS would give them. “I do all my business with the deposit book. But it stressed that credit or debit cards issued abroad would be unaffected by a 60 euro ($84 Cdn) per day limit on withdrawals from cash machines — a relief for tourists, whose spending drives just under a fifth of Greece’s economic output. “I personally don’t know much about it,” said American Jamie Boyatsis, 22, from New Hampshire, watching the changing of the guard outside parliament in Athens with her family. Greece is dangerously close to having to leave the eurozone after pleas for an extension of bailout plans over a €1.6bn debt repayment to the International Monetary Fund were rejected.

Canada’s government, meanwhile, updated its travel advisory for Greece, telling travellers that banks will be closed until July 7 and to expect long lines at ATMs. “Plan to have more than one means of payment (cash, debit cards, credit cards) and ensure that you have enough cash to cover unexpected travel expenses,” the updated advisory says. He took out 100 Bulgarian levs, or around $50, from the ATM, and went inside the branch where he said bank staff had reassured him he did not need to worry about his deposit.

Tens of thousands of British and Irish people make tourist trips to Greece every year, and Bob Atkinson, a travel expert at website, said those travelling this summer should take steps to ensure they are not left stranded without access to money — a position echoed by the Association of British Travel Agents. That reflected the picture across the region: banks said it was business as usual, with no Greek-style restrictions on withdrawals and no evidence of any queues outside the branches of Greek-owned banks.

Regional central banks said they had, in effect, quarantined the subsidiaries of Greek banks, cordoning off their capital from their parents so they could not be rocked by the turbulence in Greece. Just hours earlier, the government had decided that the country’s banks would remain shut until July 7th, two days after a crucial referendum in which citizens will be asked whether or not to accept the demands made by international lenders in return for fresh cash Greece needs to stop it defaulting on its debts. “God above will decide whether I live or die,” another pensioner and widower, Eleni, said when asked how she would get through the next few days. “I’ve only €10 in my purse and I don’t know what to do. Cash withdrawals from ATMs in Greece have been limited to €60 a day, and Atkinson said people have been queuing up to empty machines of whatever they can get, amid reports that only 40% of ATMs have money in them.

Greece’s Tourism Ministry insists tourists, who drive one-fifth of the country’s economic output, won’t be affected by the capital controls imposed Monday. (Daniel Ochoa de Olza/Associated Press) “It must be crystal clear what is being decided: It is essentially the question, yes or no to remaining in the eurozone,” German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said. “If the Greek people want to have a humiliated prime minister, there are a lot of them out there. It won’t be me,” he said in an interview on Greek state television as thousands of people rallied outside parliament to show their support of the government’s rejection of the tough international bailout conditions.

While Vasiliki and Eleni seemed resigned to their predicament as they returned home upon realising that the bank wouldn’t open, others were left seething at those they blamed for the situation the country had found itself in. “Our prime minister spoke of upholding our dignity when he called the referendum and where are we now? Between now and then Greece remains suspended between collapse and an uncertain rescue, between membership in the 19-member euro club and the possibility of a humiliating exit.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Trading sharp words, a deeply divided Supreme Court upheld the use of a controversial drug in lethal-injection executions Monday, even as two dissenting justices said for the first time they think it’s “highly likely” the death penalty itself is unconstitutional. Whoever was foolish enough to vote for those people in the last election will be even greater fools if they go along with the government and vote No on Sunday,” fumed Nikos, another pensioner.

On their last day together until the fall, the justices voted 5-4 in a case from Oklahoma that the sedative midazolam can be used in executions without violating the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Elsewhere, people were defiant in their support for the government, which seemed to have received a boost following European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s appeal to Greeks not “to commit suicide because you are afraid of death”. “When someone like Juncker goes on television to tell me I have to vote one way, then I’ll do the opposite. The court also divided 5-4 in cases upholding congressional districts drawn by independent commissions and calling into question first-ever limits on mercury emissions from power plants. In addition, the justices also agreed to hear an important affirmative action case in the fall and acted to keep Texas abortion clinics open amid a legal fight that threatens to close most of them.

As unseasonal heavy rain compounded their misery, worried savers, many of them elderly, lined up at those few Athenian cash machines which were still operating after a weekend of panicky withdrawals. Reports from supermarkets also suggested that canned and dried goods were being stockpiled by customers. ‘It’s as if we are expecting a war,’ a Greek colleague remarked. So confident that it would never reach this point, we didn’t even bother trying to withdraw money over the weekend,” said Kostas, who runs a pet food shop.

Law enforcement experts say this shooting was clear-cut. “There cannot be any cleaner situation than this one,” said Maria Haberfeld, head of the law and police science department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “You cannot shoot any fleeing felon, but certainly you can shoot the one who poses a real threat. They’re not necessarily cheaper, but they don’t have the same products.” Panayiotis, a policeman, said there was no option but to vote No, against the lenders’ proposals. Years of spending cuts meant that he and his colleagues now had to pay for repairs to patrol cars out of their own pocket. “By halting funding for our banks, they’re trying to choke us. Jay Cook, a 21-year veteran who was part of the huge manhunt for the two convicted murderers, who had used power tools to break out of the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate Dannemora on June 6.

Any Greek growth strategy will depend heavily on tourists, who many now fear will think twice about taking that Greek island holiday this summer, even though the €60 withdrawal limit will not apply to tourists or holders of foreign credit or cash cards. Sweat had been serving life without parole in the killing of a sheriff’s deputy, and Matt had been serving 25 years to life for the killing of his former boss. After he successfully took out €300, Japanese tourist Naito Masatuki’s only problem was that most of Corinth’s shops and supermarkets were closed to mark the feast day of the city’s patron, St Paul. “I’m not worried. CAIRO (AP) — A car bomb killed Egypt’s chief prosecutor Monday in the country’s first assassination of a senior official in 25 years, marking what could be an escalation in a campaign by Islamic militants toward targeting leaders of a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hisham Barakat led the prosecution of members of the Brotherhood and other Islamists, including former President Mohammed Morsi, who was overthrown by the military in July 2013. Monday’s assassination of the 65-year-old Barakat came on the eve of the second anniversary of the mass demonstrations against Morsi that led to his ouster. Last night it was announced that 850 bank branches would be allowed to open on Thursday so that pensioners, many of whom do not have bank cards, can withdraw their allowances.

A car laden with explosives was detonated by remote control around 10 a.m. as Barakat’s motorcade left his home in the eastern district of Heliopolis, police said. But Greeks have already withdrawn 30 billion euros from the country’s financial institutions since Syriza came to power five months ago vowing to face down enforced austerity and the EU money men.

An Egyptian militant group calling itself “Popular Resistance in Giza” claimed responsibility for the attack in an online statement, with photographs from the site of the bombing. NEW YORK (AP) — NBC said Monday that it is ending its business relationship with mogul and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump because of comments he made about Mexican immigrants during the announcement of his campaign.

Trump has also been a fixture on NBC as host of “The Apprentice” and its celebrity offshoot, and an agreement that he would no longer be on the show predated the current controversy. They like Cuban cigars. ‘Only yesterday Yanis Varoufakis (the leather-jacketed Greek finance minister) had some Communist spit in his face outside the Finance Ministry over there.’ How the five months since the elation of Syriza’s election victory have changed the landscape.

That program, together with a more advanced but also troubled parallel effort to rebuild the Iraqi army, is central to the U.S.-led effort to create ground forces capable of fighting IS without involving U.S. ground combat troops. The Syria initiative is intended to enable moderate opposition forces to defend their own towns against the IS militants, not to form a national resistance army.

He was a lawyer and had much to say about the current situation here. ‘It is a tragedy,’ he said. ‘We have been plagued by bad politicians for many years. The war option that the United States has kept on the table has few fans, and the world community does not seem willing to impose truly crippling sanctions. But its authoritarian regime puts up a convincingly brave front, and the Obama Administration, with its legacy on the line, seems at least as determined to conclude a deal. I will vote “yes” in the referendum.’ He bought two Monte Cristo cigars costing 20 euros each. ‘Cigars are the only fun, the only treat, I have left in my life,’ Mr Laios argued. ‘Please do not deny me this.’ Johnny Zavaras, 72, used to run a restaurant. Israel and Sunni Arab countries like Saudi Arabia fear any scenario where Iran — a Shiite power with a theocratic government involved in conflicts all around the region — is even close to a bomb.

When Susannah Mushatt Jones and Emma Morano were born in 1899, there was not yet world war or penicillin, and electricity was still considered a marvel. Too many tickets. ‘I ordered these on Friday morning and now I have no one to sell them too,’ he complained. ‘The winner is announced at 9am tomorrow. Jones, who lives in Brooklyn, currently tops a list of supercentenarians, or people who have lived past 110, which is maintained by Los Angeles-based Gerontology Research Group.

But we both agreed that if I did win – and Johnny even chose me a ‘lucky’ ticket with 33 in the number because ‘that is the age at which Christ died’ – it is unlikely that the now spat-upon finance minister would allow me to take it out of this bankrupt land. ‘They have taken everything from us.

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