NICOSIA - Cyprus is in a state of shock. The banks have been closed for days and somehow, the country has to raise 5.8 billion euros to qualify for the bailout package proposed by euro zone finance ministers.
The initial rejection by the Cypriot parliament to the controversial bank account levy plan, has left this small Mediterranean island wading in the deepest economic uncertainty in memory. What does it mean for its around one million residents? More pointedly, it's younger generation is facing the hardest questions: Should we up and leave? Hoard our money? Or just hang in there and stay optimistic?
Suddeutsche Zeitung spoke to four young Cypriots:
Nick, 29, Architect
I have been so stressed these past few days that I couldn’t even concentrate on my work because I’m so worried about the future. Until last Friday, I’d always thought that everything would turn out okay, just give it a couple of years – but now everything’s a lot worse. It didn’t make much difference to me whether the parliament voted for or against the EU’s plans. Either way, Cyprus’s economy has been destroyed.
I became self-employed three years ago. I’m now assuming that all my clients will put their projects on hold and I will have to give up my company. So, I’ve decided to emigrate and maybe go to London where I lived for a couple of years. A lot of my friends are also thinking of leaving Cyprus because they’re going to be out of jobs soon, too. My father’s employer told him not to come to work anymore because at the end of this week he wouldn’t be able to pay him. My parents are as worried as I am, but they can’t just pack up and leave.
What's happened has destroyed our financial sector. Politicians in Northern Europe did that on purpose. They want investors to place their money in other countries like Malta, for example, or Germany. I think Germany would like to see a lot of that money. That’s why I feel betrayed by the EU. If you have a friend and he asks for your help you don’t stab him in the back.
Marianna, 30, Ministry of Education employee
What’s happened here in the past few days has shocked me and made me worried. Many people here are panicking. Every day we go to the ATMs and withdraw money – we can take out up to 500 euros per day daily from our accounts; anything over that amount is frozen. We keep the cash at home. I am so worried about my savings and my family’s investments. I’m a little less worried about my job because I have a permanent contract. But my sister, for example, lost her job two months ago and still hasn’t found a new one. It’s like that for so many people.
We’re all waiting to see what happens and nobody knows if some kind of account levy will be introduced or not. The whole country is in a state of anxiety about this. Along with tourism, our financial sector is the most important part of our economy and it’s being destroyed. I don’t see how we can have a healthy economy in the future. The only choices seem to be enormous damage or total catastrophe.
In my opinion this is all down to political games; partially against the Russian investors and partially thanks to Angela Merkel strategically positioning herself for the German federal elections later this year. We feel we’re being dealt with unfairly.
Konstantinos, Music Producer
I lived abroad for nine years and made a lot of concessions in order to be able to return to Cyprus. My family and I have been back here for a year and during this time, the place has collapsed.
As a music producer I’m self-employed and depend on getting my own projects. Though I do still have work, I’m earning a quarter of what I was a few months ago. From that standpoint, the latest developments haven’t hit me all that much: the economy was already going down the tubes.
Still, the whole thing makes me unhappy. Not because I’m scared for my savings but because so many people don’t want to really acknowledge what’s going on here. Nobody’s actively trying to find a solution. Instead they’re looking for scapegoats to blame everything on.
Cyprus is ruined. Not because any particular decision was made, but because the banks speculated with our money – I think they should lock up the people responsible for that.
Konstantinos, 27, Entrepreneur
We’ve been feeling the crisis here for a while now and you can see it in the stores -- there’a not a lot left to buy. Now, people are paying a lot more attention to how they spend their money. I own a small office supply company and demand has been dwindling -- in fact for the past three days there hasn’t been any at all.
I'm not overly worried about my savings, but I do wonder about Cyprus’s future and how the economy can be stabilized. I don’t have any answers – that’s why I didn’t go into politics. I trust our politicians and their decisions. We voted for them and have a right to expect that they’ll act in our interest. The EU’s decisions, on the other hand, aren’t necessarily in the interest of people here.