Bank levy 'least painful' option for Greek Cyprus: President Anastasiades

Bank levy 'least painful' option for Greek Cyprus: President Anastasiades

NICOSIA - Agence France-Presse
Bank levy least painful option for Greek Cyprus: President Anastasiades

A handout picture released by the Cypriot Press and Information Office (PIO) shows President Nicos Anastasiades addressing the nation regarding the controversial EU bailout deal on March 17, 2013, in Nicosia. The economic bailout plan for Cyprus comes nine months after the tiny Mediterranean island, socially and culturally linked to Greece, requested an aid package from the European Union. AFP PHOTO / PIO / CHRISTOS AVRAAMIDES

President Nicos Anastasiades said March 17 that a controversial bank levy on private depositors in Greek Cyprus banks as part of an EU bailout deal was the "least painful" option for the financially embattled island.

"I chose the least painful option, and I bear the political cost for this, in order to limit as much as possible the consequences for the economy and for our fellow Cypriots," Anastasiades said in a televised address to the nation.

As a condition for a desperately-needed 10-billion-euro ($13 billion) bailout for Greek Cyprus, fellow eurozone countries and international creditors Saturday imposed a levy on all deposits in the island's banks.

Deposits of more than 100,000 euros will be hit with a 9.9 percent charge, while under that threshold the levy drops to 6.75 percent.

Anastasiades urged all political parties in Greek Cyprus to ratify the terms of the EU deal when parliament meets on March 18.

"I urge the parliamentary parties to decide, and I will fully respect their decision, in the best interests of the people and this country," Anastasiades said.

"I hope that together, based on the facts as they have developed, we will take the wisest decision," he said, adding, "the road ahead will not be easy." "The solution we came to is certainly not the one we wanted, but its the least painful under the circumstances," the president said.

Anastasiades needs to get the legislation ratifying the deal through parliament before banks reopen March 19 after a long three-day weekend or face a run on accounts.

But Greek Cyprus media reported that the scale of revolt against the agreement among MPs has thrown into disarray his efforts to do so over the weekend, and he may have to declare an additional bank holiday on March 19.

South Cyprus also postponed until March 18 an emergency debate in parliament on the deal that was scheduled for March 17.