Greek Finance Ministry says ECB decision aimed at Eurogroup

The Greek Finance Ministry interpreted a European Central Bank decision to stop accepting Greek government bonds as collateral from local lenders as a moved aimed at pushing Athens and its eurozone partners towards a new debt deal.

“By taking and announcing this decision, the European Central Bank is putting pressure on the Eurogroup to move quickly to seal a new mutually beneficial deal between Greece and its partners,” said the ministry in a statement released early on Thursday.

The ministry insisted that the ECB’s decision, which means Greek lenders will have to revert to borrowing via the more expensive Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) provided by the Bank of Greece, did not reflect any concerns about the health of the local banking system.

“According to the ECB itself, the Greek banking system remains adequately capitalized and fully protected through its access to ELA,” said the statement.

The Finance Ministry also indicated that the central bank’s decision would not change the government’s negotiating strategy.

“The government is widening the scope of its negotiations with partners and institutions it belongs to each day,” it said. “It remains focussed on the targets of its social relief program, which the Greek people approved with their vote. It is negotiating with the aim of drafting of a European policy that would stop once and for all the self-feeding crisis of the Greek social economy.”