On 14 December 2000, the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB) decided upon the long-term calendar of closing days for the Trans-European Automated Real-time Gross settlement Express Transfer (TARGET) system, applicable from 2002 until further notice. In accordance with this decision, the entire TARGET system, including all of its national components (i.e. the national real-time gross settlement (RTGS) systems) will, in addition to Saturdays and Sundays, shut down on the following days: i) New Year's Day; ii) Good Friday (Catholic/Protestant religious calendar); iii) Easter Monday (Catholic/Protestant religious calendar); iv) 1 May (Labour Day); v) Christmas Day; and vi) 26 December.
The Governing Council of the ECB has approved an exceptional derogation from the long-term calendar applicable in Greece for a three-year period, on the basis of a limited adaptation. The Greek RTGS system (HERMES) will be operational on Catholic/Protestant Easter Fridays and Mondays which do not coincide with the Greek Orthodox Easter Fridays and Mondays, but only for the following limited range of operations: settlement services offered by HERMES on these days will only cover domestic customer payments of a retail nature, including the settlement of retail payment systems. No other type of payments, such as cross-border, interbank, money market, capital market or foreign exchange transactions, will be processed through HERMES. The Bank of Greece will not normally offer access to standing facilities on these days and it will only be granted if absolutely necessary, e.g. to avoid a failure in the settlement of an ancillary system. Following this three-year period, Greece's situation will be reassessed.
This derogation was deemed necessary because the closure of HERMES on Easter Friday and Easter Monday as they fall in the Catholic/Protestant religious calendars, usually normal business days in Greece, would be problematic for the Greek banking industry, for business and the public in Greece, as the country faces the unique situation that Catholic/Protestant and Orthodox Easters seldom coincide. This implies a larger number of de facto closing days for domestic markets than is the case in other EU countries. The problem is magnified, however, when the two Easter periods fall within a week of each other, as will be the case in 2003. In that year, banks in Greece would operate on only three days over an 11-day period, a situation which was considered to be undesirable. With this limited derogation, the specific needs of the Greek banking industry, business and public can be accommodated without any major impact on the level playing-field between market participants in different countries.
It is recalled that on TARGET closing days, with the exception of the Bank of Greece, as described above, no standing facilities will be available at national central banks. These days will not be settlement days for the euro money market or foreign exchange transactions involving the euro, and the euro overnight index average (EONIA) will not be published. Furthermore, the correspondent central banking model (CCBM) for the cross-border use of collateral will also be closed.
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