Austrian banks ‘will not flee Greece’

The chiefs of Austria’s biggest banks ensured they would not reduce investments in financially struggling Greece.Raiffeisenzentralbank (RZB) boss Walter Rothensteiner said after a meeting with the heads of Austria’s other four major banks and People’s Party (ÖVP) Finance Minister: “We will not speculate against Greece, and we won’t reduce our investments in the country.”Austrian banks have invested four to five billion Euros in the European Union (EU) member state which is set to receive 110 billion Euros from the EU’s Eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).The Eurozone describes the 16 EU states which have the Euro as their currency.Austria will provide around 2.3 billion Euros.Pröll said there was “no alternative and no plan b” to supporting Greece financially. But he warned: “The time of cheating and tricking is over for Greece.”Pröll added: “Those sums are loans, not gifts. The current situation is painful for Greece, and the action plan is necessary for Europe and reasonable for Austria. The economy and jobs are what this is all about.”The minister last week suggested banks should contribute in helping Greece, but said after meeting the heads of Austria’s five main bank institutes: “Banks which already needed state aid should not handle more money to assist Greece. This would be the wrong decision.”Pröll however appealed to bank bosses to hold their promises not to withdraw activities from Greece.The minister said: “There seems to be an international tendency to flee from Greece. Austrian [bank] institutes will not join this trend.”Social Democratic (SPÖ) finance secretary Andreas Schieder said: “The measures Greece is now confronted with are unprecedented and harsh. But I’m convinced the problem is under control now.”Pröll promised Austrian tax payers would not have to come up for the country’s loans to Greece by some new tax.The opposition Freedom Party (FPÖ) meanwhile appealed to the SPÖ-ÖVP coalition to liaise with other EU countries in trying to force Greece out of the Eurozone. FPÖ chief Heinz-Christian Strache said a referendum should be held over the Austria’s contribution in the financial support package.Herbert Scheibner from the Alliance for Future of Austria (BZÖ) argued the people of Greece should decide themselves whether they want to leave the Eurozone or accept the government’s vast cost-cutting regime planned for the next three to four years.