THE PRESIDENT of Cyprus has declared the financial crisis that has gripped his country for two weeks to be ‘contained’, and thanked the public for its perseverance in tolerating the tumultuous period.
Nicos Anastasiades told a conference of civil servants that the deal negotiated between his administration and the EU-IMF Troika was the best that could have been secured – and had saved the country from bankruptcy.
“The situation, despite the tragedy of it all, is contained,” he said.
Anastasiades – who has only been in power for a month – vowed that his country would remain in the eurozone, saying any attempt to return to the Cypriot pound would be an ‘experiment’.
“We will not leave the euro and I stress that,” he said. “I repeat, we will not engage in risky experiments that will endanger the future of our country.”
The president’s comments cane after a spokesman for a conglomerate of major banks said there was still a genuine prospect of Cyprus having to leave the single currency.
“This is the first case where you can see some kind of exit as a very distinct possibility,” said Philip Suttle, deputy managing director of the Institute of International Finance, which represents some 450 banks worldwide.
Banks back to normal… sort of
After being shut for eight successive weekdays – two of which were scheduled bank holidays – the banks reopened yesterday lunchtime and are operating full hours today – albeit with draconian controls still in place including a daily withdrawal limit of €300.
Small queues built up outside many branches, with some banks limiting the numbers allowed in at one time, but fears of panicked scuffles were not realised as public order was largely observed.
“I would like to thank the Cypriot people for their maturity and collectedness shown in their interactions with the Cypriot Banks,” Anastasiades tweeted.
Foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides said on Thursday that the withdrawal limits and other capital controls could be “lifted within a month if everything goes as well as it did” when the banks reopened.
Anastasiades has meanwhile received the backing of Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt, who questioned the way that both the previous Cypriot leadership and the EU handled the problems facing Cyprus.
“The question for me here in Cyprus is why one allowed the situation to go on for so long, and then dumped it on [the] new President within days,” the Swede tweeted as he ended a visit to Cyprus.
Anastasiades’s communist predecessor Demetris Christofias first sought a bailout in June but apparently balked at the tough terms proposed by the troika.
The Cypriot cabinet on has appointed a panel of former Supreme Court judges to investigate whether criminal activity led to the financial crisis.
Additional reporting by AFP