Officials from Greece’s biggest cities and regions demanded an audience with the prime minister in exchange for their support after they were told to hand over their cash reserves to help keep the country afloat.
Running out of options, Greece’s anti-bailout coalition ordered municipalities on Monday to shift their cash balances to the central bank. Without the move, the government may have struggled to pay salaries and pensions.
The country’s two biggest umbrella groups for local governments, which represent mayors and governors from a myriad of parties, said they would hand over their money on the condition that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras briefs them on the “the true state” of the economy.
“If the country is in danger of bankruptcy, we will give everything we have,” the Central Union of Municipalities said on its website on Wednesday. “They just have to tell us” and we’ll contribute to the national effort.
Some of the mayors this week protested the fact that the order was given through a decree without prior consultation or a vote in parliament. Though they may not have a choice, delays could strip Greece of any room for maneuver.
“Judging from the gravity of the problem, the representatives of local government request an immediate meeting,” the Central Union of Regional Governments, a separate umbrella group, said on its website. “Until such a meeting takes place, the cash reserves will not be transfered.”
Earlier today, Greek Alternate Finance Minister Dimitris Mardas said the decree was necessary, as state coffers were short by about 400 million euros ($429 million) this month. He later backtracked, saying pension funds had voluntarily covered the shortfall.
This “public confession” that there’s not enough cash “is alarming for the future of the country,” the Central Union of Municipalities said.