Saturday

24th Feb 2024

Cyprus on the brink of euro exit after ECB ultimatum

  • The ECB could pull the plug on emergency funds to Cyprus' banks (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Cyprus is on the brink of bankruptcy and of becoming the first-ever country to leave the euro after the European Central Bank (ECB) issued an ultimatum on Thursday (21 March).

In its statement, the ECB warned that it would turn off the tap of emergency funding to Cyprus' banks on Monday if a rescue package is not agreed.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Removing Cyprus' emergency support could see the country's two largest banks, Bank of Cyprus and Laiki, collapse within days.

Carston Brezki, senior economist at ING, described the ECB's move as a "gun at the head of Cyprus."

But he expressed doubt if the ECB would really switch off Cyprus' financial life support.

"It is hard to imagine that the ECB would really be willing to be the one to pull the trigger," he noted.

The Cypriot government of president Nicos Anastasiades is now scrambling for a Plan B to put to the eurozone, involving alternative ways to raise the €6 billion contribution on which the eurozone's €10 billion bailout package is conditioned.

Using the island's natural gas reserves, pension funds or state-owned assets as collateral have all been mooted as possible means to raise the cash.

A set of bills were tabled yesterday in Nicosia, including plans to create a state investment fund to raise Cyprus' contribution.

The Cypriot parliament is also expected to vote on legislation to impose capital controls restricting the amount of money customers can take out of their bank accounts when, or if, they reopen next week.

Cypriot banks, which have been shut since the rescue plan was agreed by finance ministers in Brussels , are expected to remain closed until next Tuesday in a desperate bid to avoid a bank run with account holders panicking at the prospect of losing their savings.

Meanwhile, finance minister Michalis Saris will remain in Moscow for a third day of talks with Anton Siluanov, his Russian counterpart.

Despite reports linking Gazprom to a multibillion euro loan to Cyprus in exchange for access to the island's recently discovered natural gas reserves, time is rapidly running out for a formal offer to be made.

Panicos Demetriade, governor of the Cypriot central bank, insisted that the deadline would be met.

"We will have a programme of support for Cyprus by Monday," he said.

In a further blow, rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded Cyprus to CCC, a junk status that is only two notches above default.

Following a tense telephone conference between eurozone finance ministers on Thursday, the Eurogroup issued a statement that it is "prepared to continue negotiations on an adjustment programme."

It added that it "reaffirms the importance of fully guaranteeing deposits below €100,000" in the EU.

Eurogroup boss: Cyprus levy is 'inevitable'

Eurogroup boss Jeroen Dijsselbloem told MEPs on Thursday that Cypriot savers will have to lose money no matter what the final shape of the bailout deal.

Cyprus struggling on bailout Plan B

With no firm offer from Russia, Cypriot officials are scrambling to find alternative money to secure a €10 billion EU bailout.

Cyprus blamed for decision to tax small savers

The European Commission has said it was Cyprus itself that insisted on the most unpopular detail of its bailout. But the commission is not squeaky clean either, say others.

Cyprus MPs pass bank laws, start bailout talks

Cyprus edged back from the brink of bankruptcy on Friday after MPs agreed to a series of emergency reforms - including capital controls - in a bid to avoid financial meltdown.

Eurozone agrees Cyprus bailout 2.0

Cyprus' Laiki bank is to be wiped out. Depositors in Bank of Cyprus will also take a hit under a new bailout deal. But details remain sketchy.

Opinion

After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports

Two years of tragedies, with well over 100,000 Russian war crimes now registered, underscore the urgent need to stop international LNG investments in Russia that continue to fund Vladimir Putin's war chest.

Opinion

Blackmailing the Global South on EU carbon border tax won't work

According to the European Commission, CBAM is supposed to prevent "carbon leakage". In other words, it seeks to prevent European industries relocating to jurisdictions with less stringent environmental policies, while also incentivising carbon pricing and industrial decarbonisation abroad.

Latest News

  1. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  2. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win
  3. EU paid Russia €420-per-capita for fossil fuels since war began
  4. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  5. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  6. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  7. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  8. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us