Cyprus Banks Finally Reopen But Anger Lingers

Cyprus' banks have finally opened their doors after a forced bank holiday. Queues grew outside branches all across the country with no signs of panic. Many residents expressed anger towards the controversial bailout because the banks have "stolen their money."

By Tom Parmenter, Sky News Correspondent in Cyprus
Thursday 28 March 2013
Sky News

Cyprus' banks have opened their doors after the longest enforced bank holiday in Europe's history.

Queues grew outside branches across the country, with no signs of panic as employees limited the number of customers allowed in at any one time.

But many residents expressed anger at the country's controversial bailout - which requires Cyprus to raise 5.8bn euros (£4.9bn).

"They have stolen our money," Milton Loucas told Sky News.

"I have been working for 60 years. I am 80 years old. I cannot work again for my living - they have cut the lot.

"Our money, our social insurance - they have cut them. How are we going to live?"

Another Cypriot, Stelios, came out of the bank empty handed.

"I tried to get my February wages and they gave me a piece of paper only," he said.

"I have two children in the army and they asked for money - I don't have money to give them.

"The Government didn't pay anybody. My old parents didn't get their pension."

The country's President - who has cut his own salary by 25% - tweeted his thanks to Cypriots for showing "maturity" as the banks reopened.

"I would like to thank the Cypriot people for their maturity and collectedness shown in their interactions with the Cypriot Banks," Nicos Anastasiades said on his official Twitter account.

Cash withdrawals and other transactions are subject to tough restrictions, introduced by the country's Finance Ministry in an effort to avoid a run on the banks.

The country's crippled banking system was effectively closed down on March 16 while the terms of the 10bn euro (£8.5bn) bailout were agreed and implemented.

Large depositors face losses of as much as 40% of their savings as part of the deal, leading to fears that customers would attempt to withdraw large amounts of money when the banks reopened.

As a result, strict capital controls include a withdrawal limit of 300 euros (£253) a day and a ban on cashing cheques.

Travellers leaving the country can only take up to 1,000 euros (£845), or the equivalent in foreign currency, with them in cash - significantly less than expected.

Police and security staff were deployed to maintain order at branches, and G4S guards called in to work alongside police officers and other security firms across the country.

The giant global firm was the contractor that failed to meet their promises over security at the London Olympics prompting the British military to step in.

G4S's managing director in Cyprus, John Arghyrou, told Sky News: "I feel we have the resources, I feel extremely confident as a security company that we can undertake and meet the requirements of our customers."

With just 860,000 people, Cyprus has around 68bn euros (£57bn) in its banks.

This outsized financial system attracted deposits from foreigners but has struggled since investments in neighbouring Greece went sour.

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