Monday

27th May 2019

Cypriot archbishop calls for euro-exit

  • The Cypriot church has close links with Russian orthodox clergy (Photo: Richter Frank-Jurgen)

The leader of the Cypriot orthodox church has said Cyprus should leave the euro and put its former government on trial.

Speaking in Greek publication Realnews on Saturday (23 March), Chrysostomos II said: "The euro cannot last. I'm not saying that it will crumble tomorrow, but with the brains that they have in Brussels, it is certain that it will not last in the long term, and the best is to think about how to escape it."

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He noted: "It's not easy, but we should devote as much time to this as was spent on entering the eurozone."

He said in Greek daily Kathimerini on Sunday he will meet with Russian investors in Cyprus to appeal to them not to flee the island.

Speaking again to Cypriot media after mass in Nicosia on Sunday, he added that the government of former president Dimitris Christofias and the island's top bankers should be put on trial.

"The government that has just left office is definitely to blame. The finance ministers are to blame. The Central Bank turned everything upside down. The managers and bank executives should be put on trial because they turned everything topsy-turvy and people have become destitute," he said.

His remarks tap into popular anger against plans to tax bank savers and bondholders in order to top up a €10 billion EU-IMF bailout.

A poll last week by Prime Consulting noted that two thirds of Cypriots would be happy to leave the single currency and seek aid from Russia.

Under a new deal clinched in Brussels in the small hours of Monday morning, large depositors in Cyprus' Laiki bank, which is to be wound down, will lose their money. Savers and bondholders in the Bank of Cyprus will also take a hit.

The country's banks remain closed for now and emergency laws have limited ATM withdrawals to just €100 amid fears that when they re-open, Russian businessmen will take their billions elsewhere.

Chrysostomos II had earlier in the week proposed an alternative model involving the use of Church assets.

He said on Wednesday after a meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades the church could help create a "solidarity fund" using money raised by mortgaging some of its properties.

The church is one of the largest landowners in Cyprus. It also holds a chunk of Hellenic bank, the island's third biggest lender, and shares in Cypriot beer maker, the KEO brewery.

It has played an active role in Cypriot politics in the past.

In 2004, it denounced an UN-brokered peace plan for the frozen conflict with Turkish-controlled north Cyprus as the "work of the devil," contributing to its defeat in a referendum.

Correction: the original text said the EU bailout is worth €17 billion. It is worth €10 billion. Apologies

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