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Ioannis Kasoulides: Cracking Cyprus

Following the furore over the EU bailout, the Cypriot foreign affairs minister discusses the island's financial future.

Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 13:21
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A deal wrapped between Cyprus and international lenders has left the borrower bitter and disappointed - this, of course, on top of a decades-long division of the island between Greeks and Turks would not be understating that times are tough for the Mediterranean nation.

Europe's financial plague swept on to Cypriot shores after the island nation's banks over invested in Greek government bonds - bonds that are now worth little more than the paper they are written on. But this time Cyprus is not being purely bailed out - it is also being bailed in.

The troika, comprised of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund would give 10bn euros ($13,1bn) in loans, but only if the islanders find 13bn euros ($17bn) to commit to the rescue pot.

Asked if the troika bailout plan can work, Ioannis Kasoulides, the Cypriot foreign affairs minister, says:

"We are not sure. That is the point for which I have said to you that we feel disappointed and bitter. We don’t interpret what has happened to European solidarity, but we are a resilient people … the harsh condition and the one that we are not expecting and the one we are feeling bitter and disappointed about is the bail-in, which is taking money from depositors, which is happening in Europe for the first time….

"We feel we are serving as an experiment in answering the bigger question that has always been around the EU, about whether taxpayers’ money should be asked each time the bank makes a reckless management and takes risks …. They began experimenting in Cyprus and it is now obvious that this going to apply elsewhere in Europe."

Where will they get the money?

Gold suffered its biggest one-day fall in three decades, dropping more than 9 percent due to panic selling. And media speculation says that one of the reasons for the panic is that Cyprus allegedly considers selling off its gold reserves to pay for its bailout.

But Kasoulides denies this, in fact he says the country will keep its bullions as insurance for the future: "No, it has never been asked and we will not sell it. Besides, by selling it we will get 600 million, let's leave it as an insurance for Cyprus".

There will also be the usual rise in taxes and cuts in public spending - but unusually - Cyprus will be the first bailed-out European economy to be required to tax bank deposits up to 60 percent.

But is there another way?

The country has large deposits of natural gas, lying dormant under the sea - that is a lot of money waiting there. But extracting the gas and exporting seems to be complicated by the division on the island and relations with Turkey.

Can the Cypriot government find a way out of the financial and political mess? Ioannis Kasoulides, the foreign affairs minister of Cyprus, talks to Al Jazeera.

Talk to Al Jazeera  can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0430; Sunday: 0830, 1930; and Monday: 1430. 

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Al Jazeera
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