Cyprus had no choice but to accept the latest 10 billion euro bailout deal according to Foreign Minister Ioannis Kassoulides.
Speaking at a ceremony commemorating Greece’s Independence Day, he defended the decision to downsize the financial sector by closing the country’s second largest bank, Laiki, whilst protecting those with savings under 100,000 euros.
The Cyprus Orthodox Church which stands to lose out called for a euro exit, but Kassoulides maintained the deal will lead to recovery.
“We will try with all our power to make it work because there is no other choice. In a few years time Cyprus will have an economy responding to the needs and prosperity of its people,” he said.
Without an agreement Cyprus’ banking system would have collapsed, potentially leading to the first eurozone exit, a situation most EU leaders wished to avoid.
Germany had pushed to get levies on big depositors which they argue had benefited from Cyprus’ high interest rates for a long time. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble hailed the deal as a way to get Cyprus back on its feet whilst protecting smaller investors.
“With this, we achieved what we always believed was right, that with a bail-in, the Cypriot banking sector, is reduced to a size which is average for the size of the national economy,” Schäuble said.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, agreed that the deal was not perfect but was the only option.
“The agreement reached overnight is hard but there couldn’t be any other solution. That’s what (French Finance Minister) Pierre Moscovici has called the ‘casino economy’. The Cypriot system was totally unviable.”
The Cyprus parliament rejected the first deal last week but the new agreement will not go to the vote.
Under the previous agreement those with savings under the 100,000 euro threshold would have seen 6.7 percent of their savings disappear.
However, analysts say that though their money is safe for now, their future isn’t guaranteed. Officials warn that reigning in the banking sector could lead to economic ruin for the island nation.