UPDATE 1-In Cyprus, the bank run that wasn't

Fri Mar 29, 2013 12:09pm EDT

By Karolina Tagaris and Michele Kambas

NICOSIA, March 29 (Reuters) - In the end it was hardly even a stroll, let alone the widely predicted run on the banks of Cyprus.

Commentators had been confident that as soon as the banks reopened on Thursday at noon after Cyprus signed a rescue deal with the European Union to stave off national bankruptcy, there would be scenes of chaos.

The experts were right, but it wasn't the Cypriots causing the pandemonium. Television crews from around the world crowded into tiny Eleftheria Square in central Nicosia, the convenient location of two of the capital's main banks.

If there were a dozen Cypriots waiting patiently to make a withdrawal, there were probably twice as many cameramen, each one as frenzied as the local people were calm.

Reasons for this fortitude are not hard to find in conversations with residents of Nicosia, a sunny and welcoming city with a vibrant cafe culture.

The Greek Cypriots describe themselves as more laid back than their cousins in Greece, where the reaction to the austerity decreed in their own EU rescue deal was mayhem on the streets of Athens.

While a bomb did explode on the day the Cyprus banks ended their two-week closure, the explosion actually happened in Greece.

Cypriots say that they have endured worse, harking back to the war in 1974, when the island was divided after a Turkish military invasion.

Jean Kelly-Christou, Editor-in-Chief of the Cyprus Mail, the island's oldest newspaper, said people were drawing on the lessons of the economic crisis that followed the war.

"I think most people are being pragmatic about it and understand that demonstrations and anger might make things worse," said Kelly-Christou, who is Irish.


A strict regime of restrictions on bank transactions, including a daily limit of 300 euros on withdrawals, has been imposed this week, in what is commonly described as an unprecedented move.

Unprecedented in the short history of euro zone bailouts perhaps - but Cypriots recall they had to endure years of currency controls after the 1974 war.

In any case, much of the anger in Cyprus was probably expended before the deal was done in Brussels on Monday.

An initial version envisaged levying a tax on all bank deposits, large and small, and that infuriated small savers on the island. The final agreement, which only hit those with more than 100,000 euros in the bank, was better received.

The restrictions on bank transactions may also have helped calm the mood. After all, if people can't withdraw more than 300 euros a day, it is difficult to have a full-scale bank run.

Most people do not have 100,000 euros in the bank in any case and were taking comfort from the fact that deposits below that level are protected by insurance.

Many of those waiting in line for the banks to reopen were in fact elderly people who had run short of ready cash. They said they were uncomfortable with bank cards and so unable to use the ATMs that had remained in operation throughout.

Others probably realised that they had just as much chance of getting their money later rather than on day one.

"We were planning to take our money out but we're going to wait ... it's going to be chaos today," Constantina Economidou, a civil servant, said on Thursday.


Others were equally resigned, or perhaps numbed by the sensation that there were matters of high finance under way which they could not do much about.

"The government hasn't told us exactly what's happening so people don't know how to react. We're at a loss. Should I be hopeful or worried?" said Patra Michaelides, 45, a teacher.

Theodora Kyprianou 72, who owns a souvenir shop stacked high with unsold t-shirts, hats and souvenirs of Cyprus, said the general calm when the banks reopened did not surprise her.

"We're civilised here - what did people expect?" she said.

"The problem isn't big - it's very big. But what can we do about it?" she asked with a shrug.

There is also national pride at work. The president, Nicos Anastasiades praised his compatriots for their maturity and responsibility, while ordinary people said they had posted messages on Facebook urging Cypriots not to give the foreign media the satisfaction of seeing the country unravel.

"You may have the euros, but we have the culture," said the front page headline in the daily Politis, above photos of people queuing outside banks.

There have been street protests, but they have been limited in scope and certainly not violent.

"Cypriots are non-violent by nature. Just take a look at the vandalism and street protests in Greece. You have none of that here. This is a completely different mentality," said political scientist Hubert Faustmann of the University of Nicosia.

He said Cyprus was a small country, and if you took to the streets in protest, "you could be taking it out on your neighbour's brother in law".

"Also, there is a realisation that deep down, things were not perfect here," he said of a country whose overgrown banking sector was eight times the size of its economy.

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Comments (4)
siat wrote:
hey Europeeing Union, who keeps putting the world on edge because you forget where everyone is keeping their latest cache from organized crime and deception and corruption, its like, if there ever was a germany that didnt resort to importing engineers from other nations to fill its voids, or a france, that was worthy of crossing any harbour to rape and pillage haitians, or a norway, that buys human child porn neighborhoods in most developed country with the infrastructure to pass from house to house what most humans wouldnt think to pass from anywhere to anywhere, and sweden, leave yourself out of everything and say you just dont do that k, denmark, nice move to disguise yourselves as norwegians on the child porn front, italy, crap molesters of anything human that moves, and spain, did you forget to remind mexico that they speak spanish, and to smarten up, woe you euros are so powerful in the money and business…five million people,…imported from select genetically correct human qualities in need in your borders and so im0orted to provide the dna lacking in your own strain…ians….that is how you are…the only humans on planet earth…who have not realized the world is one nation now…including chinese …its like…if you…are still sleeping…at least thank turkey for perking up when they found out where easy money can be found.

Mar 29, 2013 1:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
siat wrote:
cyprus, hey…we are a small country…like italy…havent you seen the Godfather. Criminals, bask in the light of your neighbors that glorify criminals, cosa nostra this, you men, of 2013 are bogus, rapers, pillagers, and fornicators that live the high life on a lie, if there was any wealth in any of your nations there would be streets filled with happy children and trees abounding with singing birds and many beasts native to your lands, that is what human prosperity is, for now, it is interesteing to see the fornicators and the thieves come to light as they shuffle for the whole rest of us to see, oh, did you want any stock to fail, or some bullion, we have some at fort knox that is gettting a little rusty.

Mar 29, 2013 1:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
siat wrote:
will this be filed under Greek Mythology or Russian History my friends, it reminds me of this pharaoh that said…bury me in that pyramid…and it wont be there tomorrow.

Mar 29, 2013 1:48pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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