[QODLink]
Europe

Cyprus bank restrictions could last 'a month'

Curbs imposed after island secured bailout to be lifted over a period of about a month, foreign minister says.

Last Modified: 28 Mar 2013 18:46
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

Banks in Cyprus have ended their first day of business after nearly two weeks of a lockdown, with the foreign minister saying capital controls could remain in force longer than expected.

"A number of restrictions will be lifted and gradually, probably over a period of about a month according to the estimates of the central bank, the restrictions will be fully lifted," Ioannis Kasoulides told reporters on Thursday.

Kasoulides's comments came as Cypriot banks reopened for the first time after the government was forced to accept a tough EU rescue package to avoid bankruptcy.

Cypriots queued calmly to withdraw limited amounts of cash, but there was no sign of a run on deposits, as had been feared.

Banks were shut for nearly two weeks while the government negotiated a $13bn international bailout from the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and European Union.

Cyprus is the first country in Europe's single currency zone to impose losses on bank depositors.

The government initially said the controls would remain in place for a week, subject to review.

Economists say they will prove hard to lift as long as the economy is in crisis.

Live Box 201192615204954678

Bank staff turned up for work early on Thursday as cash was delivered by armoured trucks, and queues of a dozen or more people formed at bank branches in the capital, with uniformed security guards on duty.

A lot of money had already left electronically. Figures published by the Central Bank of Cyprus showed that savers from other euro zone countries withdrew 18 percent of their deposits from the stricken island in February, as talk of a tax on bank accounts gained ground.

Overall private sector bank deposits in Cyprus fell by 2.2 percent to 46.4 billion euros last month, after a similar drop in January.

To help the Cyprus banks weather the crisis, the ECB flew in $6.4bn in cash overnight from Frankfurt, a German newspaper reported.

Probe panel appointed
   
The government said it had appointed a panel to investigate the banking meltdown and look into claims of junior bondholders.

"It will have a broad mandate," said Constantinos Petrides, under-secretary to the Cypriot president.

"It will investigate criminal, civil and political responsibilities."

The capital controls decree was taped to the windows of bank branches and staff handed out copies to customers.

In Nicosia, the capital, there was relief, but some apprehension about what might happen.

Finance minister Michalis Sarris had earlier imposed temporary limits on daily withdrawals to $385 to prevent a run on the banks.

He also banned the cashing of cheques and ordered those travelling abroad not to take more than 1,000 euros out of the country.

Al Jazeera’s Simon McGregor-Wood, reporting from Nicosia, said the government is "reassuring people that this is a temporary measure, that they will lift it as soon as possible".

"These capital controls fly in the face of the rules and regulations that set up the eurozone. The eurozone is not meant to have these types of controls," he said.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched from the European Union's offices in the capital to Parliament on Wednesday night to protest the bailout plan.

536

Source:
Al Jazeera And Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
Featured
Booming global trade in 50-million-year-old amber stones is lucrative, controversial, and extremely dangerous.
Legendary Native-American High Bird was trained in ancient warrior traditions, which he employed in World War II.
Hounded opposition figure says he's hoping for the best at sodomy appeal but prepared to return to prison.
Fears of rising Islamophobia and racial profiling after two soldiers killed in separate incidents.
Group's culture of summary justice is back in Northern Ireland's spotlight after new sexual assault accusations.