Saturday

23rd Sep 2017

German opposition threatens EU aid for Cyprus

  • Classical-era ruins on Cypriot coastline: its banks may need up to €17 billion to survive (Photo: jnocca93)

German opposition leader Sigmar Gabriel has said he will try to block an EU-Cyprus bailout unless Cyprus cleans up its banking sector.

Speaking in German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Wednesday (9 January), the centre-left SPD party chief said: "At present we do not [agree to the rescue package]. I cannot imagine that German taxpayers will save Cypriot banks whose business model is based on allowing tax fraud."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He added: "If [German Chancellor] Mrs Merkel wants SPD approval for the Cyprus package, she will have to have very good reasons. But I do not see these at present."

Eurozone finance ministers are currently waiting for a report by US-based consultancy firm Pimco on the long term health of Cypriot banks.

Cyprus expects them to agree a draft memorandum of understanding on the bailout - worth up to €17 billion - at a meeting in Brussels on 21 January and to formally approve the measures on 10 February.

But under German law, its finance chief, Wolfgang Schauble, must get parliamentary approval before signing a legally binding agreement in the EU's Luxembourg-based bailout fund, the ESM.

Gabriel's SPD party controls just 146 out of 622 seats in the Bundestag.

But according to Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Merkel's majority is under serious threat.

In addition to the SPD, Green deputies also have ethical reservations on Cyprus, while over 20 MPs in Merkel's ruling coalition oppose her euro policies on principle.

The debate comes after a leaked German intelligence report last year said Cyprus is a haven for Russian tax evaders and organised crime.

An EU diplomat told this website that December's draft of the bailout memorandum already stipulated "a number of conditions about transparency in the [Cypriot] financial sector."

He added: "I expect the final version of the memo to deal with these topics as well."

Meanwhile, Cyprus is mobilising its top officials to tell EU colleagues that its banks do not do anything wrong.

On Monday, the head of the Cypriot central bank, Panicos Demetriades, met with eurozone countries' ambassadors in Nicosia.

A follow-up meeting with Cypriot finance minister Vassos Shiarly is planned for this week or next week.

"[Demetriades] explained all the issues about money laundering - that the problem does not exist. He showed them reports by all the relevant bodies, such as the OECD [a Paris-based economic club], and he explained how the system works. A lot of people talk about this subject without really knowing the facts," a Cypriot spokesman, Nikos Christodoulides, told EUobserver.

He added that Russia might also be invited to contribute money if there is an EU bailout.

"First there must be an EU agreement, then we might ask them [Russia] to join," he said.

But for some, Russian input is not welcome.

Cyprus' anti-money-laundering body, Mokas, is currently investigating whether Cypriot banks were used to launder over €20 million of stolen money for Russian officials linked to the killing of anti-corruption activist Sergei Magnitsky in 2009.

Magnitsky's former employer, the UK-based investment firm Hermitage Capital, believes that Russian cash might be used to quash the probe.

"[Russian President] Putin is absolutely terrified of anyone lifting the lid on Cyprus and is willing to spend any amount of government money to make sure that doesn't happen," Hermitage Capital chief Bill Browder said.

Investigation

Cyprus launches probe into Russian mafia money

Cyprus has opened an investigation into evidence that stolen Russian tax money linked to the murder of Sergei Magnitsky was laundered through its banks.

Merkel warns Cyprus not to expect special treatment

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned Cyprus it should not expect special treatment when negotiating the terms of its bailout, which she suggested would not be concluded anytime soon.

Investigation

EU bank accused of muzzling watchdog

An ongoing review of the the European Investment Bank's "complaints mechanism" could make the oversight branch less independent and less effective.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch state appeals ban on taking air-polluting measures
  2. May proposes 2-year transition period after Brexit
  3. May to call on EU's 'sense of responsibility'
  4. Catalonia has 'contingency plans' for independence vote
  5. Last German polls confirm Merkel's lead
  6. EU to step up sanctions on North Korea
  7. Tusk calls 'euro summit' in December
  8. Report: May to seek two-year EU transition

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUGermany Stands Ready to Deepen Cooperation With China
  2. World VisionFirst Ever Young People Consultation to Discuss the Much Needed Peace in Europe
  3. European Jewish CongressGermany First Country to Adopt Working Definition of Antisemitism
  4. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  5. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  6. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  8. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  9. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  10. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  11. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel
  12. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Urges Bigger Global Role for Emerging Economies