News / Europe

In Cyprus, The Bank Run That Wasn't

Depositors wait to enter a branch of Laiki Bank in Nicosia, March 29, 2013.
Depositors wait to enter a branch of Laiki Bank in Nicosia, March 29, 2013.
Reuters
In the end it was hardly even a stroll, let alone the widely predicted run on the banks of Cyprus.

Commentators had been confident that as soon as the banks reopened on Thursday at noon after Cyprus signed a rescue deal with the European Union to stave off national bankruptcy, there would be scenes of chaos.

The experts were right, but it wasn't the Cypriots causing the pandemonium.

Television crews from around the world crowded into tiny Eleftheria Square in central Nicosia, the convenient location of two of the capital's main banks.

If there were a dozen Cypriots waiting patiently to make a withdrawal, there were probably twice as many cameramen, each one as frenzied as the local people were calm.

People sit at a cafe at a central square in Nicosia, March 29, 2013.People sit at a cafe at a central square in Nicosia, March 29, 2013.
x
People sit at a cafe at a central square in Nicosia, March 29, 2013.
People sit at a cafe at a central square in Nicosia, March 29, 2013.
Reasons for this fortitude are not hard to find in conversations with residents of Nicosia, a sunny and welcoming city with a vibrant cafe culture.

The Greek Cypriots describe themselves as more laid back than their cousins in Greece, where the reaction to the austerity decreed in their own EU rescue deal was mayhem on the streets of Athens.

While a bomb did explode on the day the Cyprus banks ended their two-week closure, the explosion actually happened in Greece.

Cypriots say that they have endured worse, harking back to the war in 1974, when the island was divided after a Turkish military invasion.

Jean Kelly-Christou, editor-in-chief of the Cyprus Mail, the island's oldest newspaper, said people were drawing on the lessons of the economic crisis that followed the war.

"I think most people are being pragmatic about it and understand that demonstrations and anger might make things worse," said Kelly-Christou, who is Irish.

Strict Regime

A strict regime of restrictions on bank transactions, including a daily limit of 300 euros on withdrawals, has been imposed this week, in what is commonly described as an unprecedented move.

Cyprus Bailout

  • Agreed to on March 25
  • Worth $13 billion
  • Keeps Cyprus in the eurozone
  • Closes the island nation's second largest bank - Laiki Bank
  • Laiki accounts larger than $130,000 will be moved to a "bad bank" and used to raise bailout money
  • Laiki accounts with less than $130,000 euros will be moved to Bank of Cyprus
  • Bank of Cyprus will be restructured
Unprecedented in the short history of eurozone bailouts perhaps - but Cypriots recall they had to endure years of currency controls after the 1974 war.

In any case, much of the anger in Cyprus was probably expended before the deal was done in Brussels on Monday.

An initial version envisaged levying a tax on all bank deposits, large and small, and that infuriated small savers on the island. The final agreement, which only hit those with more than 100,000 euros in the bank, was better received.

The restrictions on bank transactions may also have helped calm the mood. After all, if people can't withdraw more than 300 euros a day, it is difficult to have a full-scale bank run.

Most people do not have 100,000 euros in the bank in any case and were taking comfort from the fact that deposits below that level are protected by insurance.

A woman waits for the opening of a branch of Laiki Bank in Nicosia, March 29, 2013.A woman waits for the opening of a branch of Laiki Bank in Nicosia, March 29, 2013.
x
A woman waits for the opening of a branch of Laiki Bank in Nicosia, March 29, 2013.
A woman waits for the opening of a branch of Laiki Bank in Nicosia, March 29, 2013.
Many of those waiting in line for the banks to reopen were in fact elderly people who had run short of ready cash. They said they were uncomfortable with bank cards and so unable to use the ATMs that had remained in operation throughout.

Others probably realised that they had just as much chance of getting their money later rather than on day one.

"We were planning to take our money out but we're going to wait ... it's going to be chaos today," Constantina Economidou, a civil servant, said on Thursday.

High Finance

Others were equally resigned, or perhaps numbed by the sensation that there were matters of high finance under way which they could not do much about.

"The government hasn't told us exactly what's happening so people don't know how to react," said Patra Michaelides, 45, a teacher. "We're at a loss. Should I be hopeful or worried?"

Theodora Kyprianou 72, who owns a souvenir shop stacked high with unsold T-shirts, hats and souvenirs of Cyprus, said the general calm when the banks reopened did not surprise her.

"We're civilized here - what did people expect? The problem isn't big - it's very big. But what can we do about it," she asked with a shrug.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades addresses a conference of civil servants in Nicosia, March 29, 2013.Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades addresses a conference of civil servants in Nicosia, March 29, 2013.
x
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades addresses a conference of civil servants in Nicosia, March 29, 2013.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades addresses a conference of civil servants in Nicosia, March 29, 2013.
There is also national pride at work. President Nicos Anastasiades praised his compatriots for their maturity and responsibility, while ordinary people said they had posted messages on Facebook urging Cypriots not to give the foreign media the satisfaction of seeing the country unravel.

"You may have the euros, but we have the culture," said the front page headline in the daily Politis, above photos of people queuing outside banks.

There have been street protests, but they have been limited in scope and certainly not violent.

"Cypriots are non-violent by nature. Just take a look at the vandalism and street protests in Greece. You have none of that here. This is a completely different mentality," said political scientist Hubert Faustmann of the University of Nicosia.

He said Cyprus was a small country, and if you took to the streets in protest, "you could be taking it out on your neighbor's brother-in-law."

"Also, there is a realisation that deep down, things were not perfect here," he said of a country whose overgrown banking sector was eight times the size of its economy.

You May Like

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: NVO from: USA
April 01, 2013 12:48 AM
Then, when the Fed’s fire hoses started spraying an elephant soup of liquidity injections in every direction and its balance sheet grew by $1.3 trillion in just thirteen weeks compared to $850 billion during its first ninety-four years, I became convinced that the Fed was flying by the seat of its pants, making it up as it went along. It was evident that its aim was to stop the hissy fit on Wall Street and that the thread of a Great Depression 2.0 was just a cover story for a panicked spree of money printing that exceeded any other episode in recorded human history.

by: jkjk:l from: cYPRUS
March 31, 2013 1:08 PM
Large and corrupt governments love to use the magic of the false choice. For instance, “…it is better to sacrifice some of your money and your principles to the establishment than it is to live through total collapse of the nation…” This false choice process, though, never ends. The offending government will demand more property and more freedom from the citizenry everyday while constantly warning that if we do not submit, the alternative will be “far worse”.

The truth is, Cyprus is not the issue. What the disaster in Cyprus reflects, however, concerns us all. It is a moment of precedence; an action which sets the stage for the final destruction of the idea of private property. It dissolves one of the final barriers to total government control. Governments and elitists have always stolen from the public through misspent taxation and rampant inflation, but with Cyprus, we see a renewed feudalistic paradigm. The EU and the banking hierarchy are sending a message to the Western world: You are now their personal emergency fund, and nothing you own is actually yours anymore.

by: nvo from: USA
March 31, 2013 1:06 PM
Just to be clear, any sizable Russian funds being stored in Cyprus were removed before the bailout measures were instituted. Therefore, the assertion that such people were “punished” is a lie and a distraction. The Russian scapegoat was merely being promoted by global financiers and political elites in order to con people around the world (not just those in Cyprus) to accept the concept of government theft of private funds as being “moral” under “certain extraneous circumstances”. When a government wants you to set aside your conscience in support of an immoral action that serves their interests, they will almost always conjure a false villain and engineered consequences for you to direct your fear and anger at. Once they can convince you to abandon your own principles to smite an imaginary enemy or avoid a manufactured threat, even if only one time, it will be much easier for them to convince you again a second time.

by: VOA from: LIES!
March 31, 2013 12:55 PM
Realizing the insanity of their solution – and sensing a popular revolt – the EU and Cyprus’ government switched to a second version of insanity. They revised the terms of their heist. Now the first 100,000 euros ($130,000) in savings would be exempted. But anyone with a larger bank account could lose 30% to 40%.

You can imagine the rage from Russian millionaires — and the terror struck into the hearts of every single person, rich or poor, across Europe who lives under the increasingly powerful, unaccountable, whimsical rule of politician-bankers. Let’s call those rulers “banksters,” because after their Cyprus raid, that’s just accurate.

Remember, this theft was excused because Cyprus’ depositors weren’t really Cypriot. But after the banksters got away with this without riots, they realized they had a new, lucrative model. And so the Dutch chairman of the eurozone — the countries that use the euro — told reporters that raiding bank accounts of savers could be repeated across Europe, in places like Italy and Spain, too.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs