1. Your Excellency, Cyprus has passed through a very difficult period. Is the crisis already over?
Indeed Cyprus has gone through an extremely challenging period. The economic crisis has taken a heavy toll on Cypriot society. It would be unfair to the people who have been subjected to many sacrifices, as a result of the economic crisis, to state that we have exited from it.
The crisis is certainly not over. It is an uphill «battle» and the people of Cyprus have shown determination and commitment to the goals set out by the government and our lenders.
We are aiming to create the right conditions of further stabilisation of the country`s financial system and of encouraging foreign investments so that new jobs can be created.
2. What has been actually done to resolve the bank problems besides taking the EU bailout?
As you know Cyprus has entered into an economic adjustment program (MoU) with the Troika of international lenders – the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.
The financial package will cover up to EUR 10 bn. So far we have received five tranches amounting to 5,77 billion from the EU and the IMF. The 6th Program tranche was not disbursed in September 2014 (ˆ433 mln) due to non-compliance in introducing legislation on foreclosure as demanded by the Program partners.
Our obligations also included the closure of the most troubled Popular Bank while the country’s largest bank, the Bank of Cyprus was restructured. The rescue package of the Bank of Cyprus included a deposit “haircut” (a bail-in) for accounts over ˆ100,000 and the absorption of good assets and deposits below ˆ100,000 of Popular Bank and its Emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) obligations.
Furthermore, in order to reduce the systemic influence of Cyprus in Greece, all Cypriot banking operations in Greece were sold at relatively low prices at the request of the Troika (EC, ECB, IMF).
The results of the Comprehensive Assessment for Cypriot Banks by ECB and EBA, published on October 26th, confirm the final stabilization and restoration of confidence in the financial system of Cyprus and the positive outlook that is formed for the Cypriot economy.
3. Would Cyprus really lift capital controls in full by the end of the year as it was promised few months ago?
The government has eased domestic capital restrictions as part of an incremental relaxation of currency controls first imposed to prevent a run on its banks in March 2013.
In May 2014, the government formally eliminated all domestic restrictions on money transfers, except the opening of a new bank account. All restrictions concerning transactions abroad remain unchanged.
Following the positive results of the stress tests on Cyprus' banking sector the government will commence, steadily and gradually, the process of lifting the very last capital restrictions.
4. What have happened with the huge Russian financial capitals in Cyprus banks? Are they still there?
We are pleased to note that international investors, including Russians, continue to express interest in investing in Cyprus, in sectors such as banking, tourism and real estate.
We are confident that the continuous overall improvement of the Cypriot economy, political stability, the rejuvenation of the financial sector and the creation of new investment opportunities, will contribute in the inflow of foreign capital investments and deposits.
5. How has the debt crisis influenced Cyprus tourism as it is one of the most important sectors in the country’s economy?
The global financial and economic downturn has affected tourism everywhere. We are learning from this unfortunate experience and we will use this knowledge in planning our future crisis response strategies.
Despite the financial crisis, Cyprus has been witnessing a healthy interest from alternative tourism markets. We are also confident that the projected investment in multipurpose developments and luxury facilities that will appeal to year-round visitors, such as casinos, marinas and golf courses, will further upgrade the Cypriot tourism product.
6. What is the Cyprus position on sanctions imposed by the EU on Russia due to the ongoing Ukraine crisis and Moscow's role in it?
The sanctions imposed by the EU on Russia, but also those imposed on EU products by the Russian Federation, have indeed created additional concerns for the Cyprus economy.
7. Ten years after entering the EU Cyprus is still divided. Is there a chance for the island to unite in the near future?
Our dream, our goal, our everyday worry is the solution of the Cyprus problem. It is not the occupier, but the people who live for 40 years under constant threat and occupation that wish to see their country liberated and reunified.
Turkey does not like to be reminded of the illegalities it has carried out in Cyprus with the invasion, continuous occupation, colonization, violation of the territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus, and the violation of human rights and basic freedoms of Cypriots.
Turkey has always worked against a just solution to the Cyprus problem. Our side is showing great will in order to reach a solution based on bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality, as outlined in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and provides for one state with one and single sovereignty, one citizenship and one international personality. A federate state member of the EU, with a strong central government, that will represent the whole of Cyprus.
Unfortunately, the ongoing direct talks are in stagnation due to the Turkish stance. The Turkish-Cypriot side, represented by Mr. Eroglu, came to the negotiations with more intransigent positions, which are unacceptable. These proposals go back to the fundamental positions of the Turkish side which can only lead to a so–called confederation and to two separate states.
With this attitude, we are not very positive that things will get better. Instead of acting in a negative and provocative manner, Turkey should instead work with good will for a just and long-lasting solution of the Cyprus problem.
8. US Secretary of State John Kerry is due to visit the island in October or November. How such a visit could help the unification process?
US Secretary of State Mr. John Kerry and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus Mr. Ioannis Kasoulides have met twice already this year, which is befitting the nature of the U.S. - Cyprus relationship.
It will be a great pleasure to welcome Secretary Kerry in Cyprus.
We greatly appreciate US’ interest and assistance in finding a just and viable solution to the Cyprus problem.
9. Recently found gas deposits off Cyprus have cause regional frictions mainly with Turkey. Have the problems been solved already?
The European Council has only recently called on Turkey to respect the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus in its waters, and has reminded Ankara that recognising all EU member states was a prerequisite for its EU accession course.
The fact that Turkey has decided to engage in hostile actions against Cyprus only some days before the commencement of substantive negotiations with a view to solve the Cyprus problem, in flagrant violation of international law and the sovereign rights of an UN and EU member state, simply demonstrates its true intentions regarding the Cyprus issue.
The President of Cyprus has suspended his participation in the UN-led intercommunal talks for a solution to the island’s longstanding issue, stating that “we cannot talk under threat” from a country, namely Turkey, “that does not respect and does not abide by International Laws and Treaties”.
The discovery of significant hydrocarbon reserves in the eastern Mediterranean could and should act as a catalyst for wider regional cooperation, thus contributing to peace and stability in the region.
Cyprus will soon be in the position to offer reliable and sustainable access to its energy sources. The unjust manipulation or interruption of our sovereign right to exploit our natural resources and other energy supplies is not only a security threat for Cyprus, but also for the EU.
10. Is Cyprus experiencing a refugee wave due to the deepening crisis in Mideast with the war against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq?
The crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic (Syria) and Iraq have increased demand for asylum throughout the region. Cyprus complies fully with its international protection obligations when faced with irregular migration.
In the end September 345 Syrian refugees, including 52 children, were rescued and taken to a reception center where they have been offered shelter and medical attention until authorities determine what will happen to them.
11. With British fighters based in Cyprus and starting their missions to bomb IS targets from Cyprus bases could the island become a target of jihadists retaliation?
Cyprus is playing its part in the international coalition attacking IS fighters in Iraq and Syria. ISIS terrorist group is a threat to humanity and therefore to Cyprus as well. Our cultural values and freedom are at stake, and we will defend them at any cost.
12. How have relations between Bulgaria and Cyprus been developing since both countries became members of the EU?
Cyprus and Bulgaria historic relations are based on common shared values, the respect for the rule of law and human rights.
Cyprus heartily supported Bulgaria’s EU aspirations, which resulted in Bulgaria’s accession in the EU. Bilateral relations have enhanced further following the latter’s accession on the EU.
Both countries are determined to further enhance their bilateral relations, deepen the mutually beneficial cooperation and build on their strategic relationship. We are committed to intensify the exchange of visits and consultations between the two governments, with a view to conclude bilateral agreements currently being discussed by the two sides.