The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

March 23, 2013

Cyprus talks to continue; no deal yet

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus officials and international representatives ended torturous negotiation in the early hours of Sunday with no agreement on a plan to raise money the island nation needs to qualify for a bailout package. Talks are set to resume later Sunday in Brussels, but time is running out: Failure would mean Cyprus could declare bankruptcy in just two days and possibly have to exit the eurozone.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Finance Minister Michalis Sarris will travel to the Belgian capital early Sunday. A viable plan must be cemented before finance ministers from the 17 countries that use the euro currency meet in Brussels in the evening.

“Negotiations are at a very delicate phase,” government spokesman Christos Stylianides said in a statement. “The situation is very difficult and the margins very limited.”

Cyprus has been told it must raise 5.8 billion euros ($7.5 billion) in order to secure 10 billion euros in rescue loans from other European countries that use the single currency, as well as from the IMF.

The IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission — known as the troika — will determine whether the plan that the Cypriots devise will meet the requirements for any international bailout package. Then, the plan is to be presented to the eurozone finance ministers for final approval.

The European Central Bank has said it will stop providing emergency funding to Cyprus’ banks after Monday if no new plan is in place. Without its support, the banks would collapse on Tuesday, pushing the country toward bankruptcy and a potential exit from the 17-nation bloc that uses the euro currency.

“We recognize the progress now being made by the Cypriot government toward a solution which can pave the way for an agreement on a financial assistance program for Cyprus,” European monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn said in Brussels. “Intensive work and contacts will continue in the coming hours.”

In Brussels, Anastasiades will meet with IMF chief Christine Lagarde and other European officials before the crucial Eurogroup meeting.

The country’s lawmakers soundly rejected an unpopular initial plan that would have seized up to 10 percent of people’s bank accounts, and Cyprus is now seeking another way to raise the desperately needed money. But the idea of some sort of deposit grab returned to the fore after Cyprus’ attempt to gain Russian financial aid failed.

Conflicting reports of progress emerged during the talks Saturday.

Late Saturday night, a finance ministry official said an accord was “very close,” and would likely include a hefty tax of a fifth to a quarter of deposits over 100,000 euros at the country’s troubled largest lender, Bank of Cyprus. But a banking official with knowledge of the talks said no deal was in the offing and wouldn’t likely arrive before Sunday.

Both spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations were ongoing and they were not authorized to release details.

According to a second finance ministry official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because he’s not authorized to speak about the negotiations, new laws may not be needed if negotiators opt for a “voluntary contribution” from Bank of Cyprus savings accounts above 100,000 euros, which is the insurance limit.

Another option being considered is smaller tax on all bank deposits above 100,000 euros.

Cyprus took significant steps toward cementing a new plan Friday night, when its lawmakers approved nine bills, including three crucial ones that will restructure ailing banks, restrict financial transactions in emergencies and set up a “solidarity fund” that will act as the vehicle for raising funds from investments and contributions.

The bank restructuring will include the country’s troubled second largest lender, Laiki, which suffered heavy losses after being exposed to toxic Greek debt.

Cypriot banks have been shut this past week while the plan was being worked out, and are not due to reopen until Tuesday. Cash has been available through ATMs, but many run out quickly, and those machines for the troubled Laiki Bank are only dispensing 260 euros a day.

Thousands of angry bank employees afraid of losing their jobs marched through the center of Nicosia to the Finance Ministry and Parliament, some with placards around their necks reading: “No to the bankruptcy of Cyprus.”

“We are protesting for our jobs, and jobs of all in Cyprus,” bank employee Zoei Koiachi said.

Worried about her job after 36 years at Laiki, Eleni Koutsourdou said lawmakers should have approved the initial plan for the 10 percent deposit grab for the sake of protecting the financial sector. “It’s unfair. They pocketed everything and we end up paying for it,” she said.

The restructuring of Laiki and the sale of the toxic-asset laden Greek branches of Cypriot banks is expected to cut the amount the country needs to raise to about 3 billion euros instead of 5.8 billion euros, officials have said. Bank of Cyprus, which was also exposed to Greek debt, might also be involved in the restructuring.

Elena Becatoros in Nicosia contributed to this report.

1
Text Only
National and world
  • House Obama Lawsuit.jpg Republican-led House approves lawsuit against President Obama

    Just a day before lawmakers were to begin a five-week summer recess, debate over the proposed lawsuit underscored the harshly partisan tone that has dominated the current Congress almost from its start in January 2013.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Russia Putin web.jpg Sanctions could damage Russia

    The sanctions go further than earlier penalties — which had largely targeted individuals — by broadly limiting the trade of weapons and of technology that can be used in the oil and military industries. The EU also put its capital markets off-limits to Russian state-owned banks.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast Libya web.jpg Thousands flee to Tunisia to escape Libya fighting

    Many diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador, have pulled out of the country. With the interim government paralyzed, the fighting threatens the planned opening session of the newly elected parliament on Aug. 4.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obit Robert Drew web.jpg Cinema verite documentarian Robert Drew dies

    Starting in 1960 with “Primary,” Drew produced and sometimes directed a series of television documentaries that took advantage of such innovations as light hand-held cameras that recorded sound and pictures.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obama Ukraine Russia_Hass_W.jpg GOP-led House approves lawsuit against Obama

    The suit will contend that Obama has exceeded his constitutional powers in the way he has enforced the 2010 health care law.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Texas: Gay-marriage ban best for children

    Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage allows the state to promote the birth and upbringing of children in “stable, lasting relationships,” the state’s attorney general argued Tuesday while asking a federal appeals court to reinstate the ban.

    July 30, 2014 1 Story

  • OKCupid, Facebook not alone in studying consumers

    Dating is hard.

    July 29, 2014

  • Abortion-Mississippi_Hass.jpg U.S. appeals court blocks Mississippi abortion law

    The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to overturn Mississippi’s 2012 law requiring abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • U.S. Court: Virginia marriage is for all lovers

    “We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws,” Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote.

    July 28, 2014

  • Sierra Leone West Af_Brac-1.jpg New fears about Ebola spread after plane scare

    Patrick Sawyer’s death on Friday has led to tighter screening of airline passengers in West Africa, where an unprecedented outbreak that emerged in March has killed more than 670 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

Featured Ads