2012–2013 Cypriot financial crisis

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The 2012–2013 Cypriot financial crisis was an economic crisis in the Republic of Cyprus that involved the exposure of Cypriot banks to overleveraged local property companies, the Greek government-debt crisis, the downgrading of the Cypriot government's bond credit rating to junk status by international credit rating agencies, the consequential inability to refund its state expenses from the international markets[1][2] and the reluctance of the government to restructure the troubled Cypriot financial sector.[3]

On 25 March 2013, a €10 billion international bailout by the Eurogroup, European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB), and International Monetary Fund (IMF) was announced, in return for Cyprus agreeing to close the country's second-largest bank, the Cyprus Popular Bank (also known as Laiki Bank), imposing a one-time bank deposit levy on all uninsured deposits there, and seizing possibly around 48% of uninsured deposits in the Bank of Cyprus (the island's largest commercial bank). A minority proportion of it was held by citizens of other countries (many of whom from Russia), who preferred Cypriot banks because of their higher interest on bank account deposits, relatively low corporate tax, and easier access to the rest of the European banking sector. This resulted in numerous insinuations by US and European media, which presented Cyprus as a "tax haven" and suggested that the prospective bailout loans were meant for saving the accounts of Russian depositors.[4][5] No insured deposit of €100,000 or less would be affected, though 47.5% of all bank deposits above €100,000 were seized.[6][7]

Nearly one-third of Rossiya Bank's cash ($1 billion) was frozen in Cypriot accounts during this crisis.[8]


Cypriot debt compared to Eurozone average
Cyprus's debt-to-GDP percentage compared to Eurozone average since 1999[clarification needed]

The United States' subprime mortgage crisis in 2007–2008 led to a domino effect of negative consequences in the global economy including the European Union. The Cypriot economy went into recession in 2009, as the economy shrank by 1.67%,[9] with large falls specifically in the tourism and shipping sectors[10] which caused rising unemployment.[11] Economic growth between 2010 and 2012 was weak and failed to reach its pre-2009 levels.[9] Commercial property values declined by approximately 30%.[12] Non-performing loans rose to a reported 6.1% in 2011,[13] increasing pressure on the banking system. With a small population and modest economy, Cyprus had a large offshore banking industry. Compared to a nominal GDP of €19.5bn ($24bn)[14] the banks had amassed €22 billion of Greek private-sector debt with bank deposits of $120bn, including $60bn from Russian corporations.[15] Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev owned a 10% stake in Bank of Cyprus.[15][16][17]

Cyprus banks first came under severe financial pressure as bad debt ratios rose. Former Laiki CEO Efthimios Bouloutas admitted that his bank was probably insolvent as early as 2008, even before Cyprus entered the Eurozone. The banks were then exposed to a haircut of upwards of 50% in 2011,[18] during the Greek government-debt crisis,[19][20] leading to fears of a collapse of the Cypriot banks. The Cypriot state, unable to raise liquidity from the markets to support its financial sector, requested a bailout from the European Union.[10]

Progress on fiscal and structural reforms was slow. After a serious accidental explosion in July 2011 at the Evangelos Florakis Naval Base, the major credit rating agencies downgraded the country's rating in September. Yields on its long-term bonds rose above 12% and there was concern that the country would be unable to stabilize its banks.


Emergency loan (2012)[edit]

Since January 2012, Cyprus had been relying on a €2.5bn (US$3.236 billion) emergency loan from Russia to cover its budget deficit and refinance maturing debt. The loan had an interest rate of 4.5%, with no amortization/repayment until its maturity after 4.5 years, and no penalty if repayment at that point of time was delayed because Cyprus still lacked access to the normal funding markets.[21][22] The received loan was expected to cover all refinancing of maturing government debt and the amount needed for the government's continued budget deficits, until the first quarter of 2013. But the received loan did not include any funds for the recapitalization of the Cypriot financial sector. Looking further ahead, it was generally expected Cyprus would need to apply for an additional bailout loan.[21]

Economic Adjustment Programme for Cyprus[edit]


  • Irish MEP Nessa Childers, daughter of the country's former President Erskine H. Childers, painted a bleak picture. She described the efforts of the EU-IMF as an "incompetent mess" and said the Eurozone was more destabilised as a result.[23]
  • In its "Schumpeter" blog, The Economist called the Cyprus bail-out "unfair, short-sighted, and self-defeating".[24]

Specifically, the article says

The Cypriot deal has no coherence in the larger context. The euro crisis has been in abeyance for a few months, thanks largely to the readiness of the European Central Bank to intervene to help struggling countries. The ECB's price for helping countries is to insist they go into a bail-out programme. The political price of going into a programme has just gone up, so the ECB's safety net looks a little thinner. The bail-out appears to move Europe further away from the institutional reforms that are needed to resolve the crisis once and for all. Rather than using the European Stability Mechanism to recapitalise banks, and thereby weaken the link between banks and their governments, the eurozone continues to equate bank bail-outs with sovereign bail-outs. As for debt mutualisation, after imposing losses on local depositors, the price of support from the rest of Europe is arguably costlier now than it ever has been.

  • Dr. Jeffrey Stacey wrote in Germany's Der Spiegel, under the headline "'Abject Error': How the Cyprus Deal Hurts EU Strategic Interests":[25]

In strategic terms the EU hurt not only Cyprus and itself, but also the interests of the US and other allies in the West. Europe pushed Cyprus directly into the arms of the Russian government. Not only did this hurt the prospects for its own deal, but it gave leverage to Moscow in the process.

More important still, however, by forcing [Cypriot President Nicos] Anastasiades between the rock of a forced bank levy and the hard place of seeking assistance from Moscow, the EU seriously undermined him domestically precisely when the West was about to reap the benefits at long last of a fairly pro-Western Cypriot president, crucially necessary to overcome sour relations with Turkey that continue to undermine NATO relations, EU relations, NATO-EU relations, and US relations with both.

To top it all off, a peace deal along the lines of the Annan Plan for a final resolution of the 40-year-old Cypriot divide – the prospects for which had improved with the election of Anastasiades – has seen its prospects diminished.

  • Economist Richard D. Wolff commented in an interview in relation to the Cyprus bailout agreement as follows:[26]

    This is blackmail. This is basically the officials of the banks and the political leaders going to the mass of people and saying to them, "This awful deal that makes you, who have nothing to do with the crisis and didn't get any bailout, pay the costs of the crisis and the bailout. You must do this, because if you don't, we will do even more damage to you and your economy. So give us your deposits, give us your money, pay more taxes, suffer fewer social programs, because if you don't, we will impose even worse on you." It's the basic idea of austerity across the board and in our country, too. And I think it's the confrontation of a system that does not work with the mass of the people, saying, "We will go down and take you with us, unless you bail us out."

Local reaction[edit]

Members of ERAS outside of the House of Representatives in Nicosia

Cyprus has seen a number of reactions and responses towards the austerity measures of the bailout plan. On 8 November 2012, the Cypriot far-left party Committee for a Radical Left Rally (ERAS) organized the first protest against austerity while the Troika negotiations were still taking place.[27] Protesters were gathered outside the House of Representatives holding banners and shouting slogans against austerity. Leaflets with alternative proposals for the economy were distributed in the protest, with proposals including the nationalization of banking, the reduction of the army and the freezing of the army budget, and the increase of the corporate tax. Members of the New Internationalist Left (NEDA) also participated in the protest.[28]

On 14 November, NEDA organised an anti-austerity protest outside the Ministry of Finance in Nicosia together with the Alliance Against the Memorandum. In the protest NEDA gave out leaflets, which expressed the view that "the EU is trying to burden the workers with the debts from the collapse of the bankers" and that "if this happens, the Cypriot economy and the future of the new generations will then be mortgaged to local and foreign profiteers and usurious bankers."ref>"Εκδήλωση διαμαρτυρίας κατά της Τρόικας έξω από το ΥΠΟΙΚ". Archived from the original on 31 January 2013. Retrieved 14 December 2012.</ref>

Contract teachers protested outside the House of Representatives on 29 November against austerity measures that would leave 992 of them without a job next year. The teachers stormed the building and bypassed the policemen, entering the House chamber. The teachers shouted against the banks and poverty.[29] A protest by investors was staged on the morning of 11 December outside the House of Representatives, with protesters again storming the House and bypassing the police. The protest interrupted the discussions of the House's committee of customs. The protesters were asked to leave so that the committee could continue its work, and the protesters left half an hour later.[30]

A number of protests took place on 12 December. Members of large families protested outside the House of Representatives against cuts in the benefits given by the state to support large families. Protesters threw eggs and stones at the main entrance of the House, and a number of protesters tried to enter the building, but were blocked by the police force that arrived to handle the protest. It was reported that a woman fainted during the incidents. The protesters shouted for the Representatives to come out but no response was given.[31]

The protesters were joined by members of KISOA (Cypriot Confederation of Organisations of the Disabled, Κυπριακή Συνομοσπονδία Οργανώσεων Αναπήρων), who marched from the Ministry of Finance to the House of Representatives to protest against cuts in benefits for people with disabilities.[32] Later in the day members of public school teachers' trade unions protested outside the Ministry of Finance against the cuts in education spending which could result in the firing of teachers.[33] The unions staged another protest the next day near the House of Representatives.[34]

Haravgi, a far left-wing newspaper, reported that just before bank deposits were blocked, a number of companies belonging to the family of President Anastasiades have transferred over $21m outside of Cyprus.[35] Anastasiades has denied these allegations.[36] Also a number of loans issued to members of political parties or public administration officers were fully or partially written off.[37]

Non-EU bank depositors[edit]

Non-resident investors who held deposits prior to 15 March 2013 when the plan to impose losses on savers was first formulated, and who lost at least €3,000,000, would be eligible to apply for Cypriot citizenship. Cyprus's existing "citizenship by investment" program would be revised to reduce the required amount from €10,000,00 to €3,000,000 euros. "These decisions will be deployed in a fast-track manner", President Anastasiades said in an address to Russian business people in the port city of Limassol in 2013. Other measures were also under consideration, he said, including offering tax incentives for existing or new companies doing business in Cyprus.[38][39]

Distressed investing[edit]

Frozen deposits in Cyprus banks attracted interest from investors and brokers specializing in distressed assets.[40][41] Among firms reported to be dealing in Cyprus bank debt was London-based Exito Partners (formerly Éxito Capital)[40] and Swiss-based Black Eagle Litigation Fund.[42][43]


A team of 16 Cypriot economists, organized by the citizens group Eleutheria ("Freedom"),[44] attributed the crisis to declining competitiveness and increasing public and private debt, exacerbated by the banking crisis.[45]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cyprus asks EU for financial bailout – Europe". Al Jazeera English.
  2. ^ "Cypriot banks in the aftermath of the Greek haircut". The Cyprus Lawyer. 26 October 2011. Archived from the original on 25 March 2013. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  3. ^ Dixon, Hugo (24 March 2013). "Cyprus Refuses to Learn From Its Mistakes". The New York Times no. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  4. ^ Ehrenfreund, Max (27 March 2013). "Cypriot banks to reopen amid criticism of bailout". The Washington Post.
  5. ^ "Cyprus disaster shines light on global tax haven industry". MSNBC. 26 March 2013. Archived from the original on 27 March 2013. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  6. ^ Jan Strupczewski; Annika Breidthardt (25 March 2013). "Last-minute Cyprus deal to close bank, force losses". Reuters. Archived from the original on 25 March 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  7. ^ "Eurogroup signs off on bailout agreement reached by Cyprus and troika". Ekathimerini. Greece. 25 March 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  8. ^ "У петербургского банка "Россия" в кризис на Кипре завис миллиард долларов: По оценке независимых экспертов, на кипрском депозите в период заморозки находилась треть денежных средств организации" [The St. Petersburg Bank "Russia" in the crisis in Cyprus, a billion dollars: According to independent experts, a third of the organization's money was frozen in the Cyprus accounts.] (in Russian). Neva.Today. 28 June 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2018.
  9. ^ a b "Cyprus: Economic Growth, Cyprus GDP growth rate". TheGlobalEconomy.com. Archived from the original on 25 February 2013.
  10. ^ a b "Up Front – March 19, 2013 at 7:00am KPFA 94.1 FM Berkeley: Listener Sponsored Free Speech Radio". 19 March 2013.
  11. ^ "Cyprus Unemployment rate – Economy".
  12. ^ "RICS Cyprus Property Index Q4 2012". RICS Europe. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
  13. ^ "Bank nonperforming loans to total gross loans (%)". World Bank. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
  14. ^ "Cyprus". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  15. ^ a b Stephen Castle; David Jolly (12 June 2012). "Rates on Spanish Bond Soar". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 June 2012.
  16. ^ Wearden, Graeme (13 March 2012). "Eurozone crisis live: Spain told to cut harder as Greek deal approved". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  17. ^ James Wilson (25 June 2012). "Cyprus requests eurozone bailout". Financial Times. Retrieved 25 June 2012.
  18. ^ Tim Worstall (31 March 2013). "There's Something Very Strange About The Cyprus Bank Haircut. Very Strange Indeed". Forbes.
  19. ^ "Greek bond investors take big 'haircut' in bailout deal Marketplace.org". 21 February 2012.
  20. ^ "Greek debt 'haircut' takes off New Europe".
  21. ^ a b Hadjipapas, Andreas; Hope, Kerin (14 September 2011). "Cyprus nears €2.5bn Russian loan deal". Financial Times. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  22. ^ Natalie Weeks; Scott Rose (24 December 2011). "Cyprus and Russia signed a deal for a 2.5 billion-euro ($3.3 billion) loan". Bloomberg Business. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
  23. ^ "MEP Childers: Cyprus bailout an 'incompetent mess'". Irish Examiner. Thomas Crosbie Holdings. 27 March 2013. Retrieved 27 March 2013.
  24. ^ Wearden, Graeme (16 March 2013). "The Cyprus bail-out: Unfair, short-sighted and self-defeating". The Economist. UK. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  25. ^ Wearden, Graeme (3 April 2013). "'Abject Error': How the Cyprus Deal Hurts EU Strategic Interests". Der Spiegel. Germany. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
  26. ^ "Events in Cyprus expose EU plan to steal peoples' savings and bailout private banks". Citizen Action Monitor. 31 March 2013. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  27. ^ BDigital Web Solutions. "Την Πέμπτη η πρώτη εκδήλωση διαμαρτυρίας κατά του Μνημονίου | Κύπρος | Η ΚΑΘΗΜΕΡΙΝΗ". Kathimerini.com.cy.
  28. ^ Συγκέντρωση διαμαρτυρίας από την ΕΡΑΣ κατά του μνημονίου και της Τρόικας μπροστά από τη Βουλή [Gathering protest from ERAS against the Troika memorandum in front of Parliament] (in Greek). Onlycy.com. 8 November 2012. Archived from the original on 11 November 2012.
  29. ^ BDigital Web Solutions (29 November 2012). "Σοβαρά επεισόδια σε Βουλή-ΥΠΟΙΚ με τους εποχιακούς ωρομίσθιους | Κύπρος | Η ΚΑΘΗΜΕΡΙΝΗ". Kathimerini.com.cy.
  30. ^ "Επεισόδια έξω από τη Βουλή (φωτο+βίντεο)". Sigmalive.com.
  31. ^ "Συμπλοκές στη Βουλή στη διαμαρτυρία των πολυτέκνων(βίντεο) | News". Sigmalive.com.
  32. ^ "Στους δρόμους και οι ανάπηροι". Sigmalive.com.
  33. ^ "Αντιδρούν και οι εκπαιδευτικές οργανώσεις | News". Sigmalive.com.
  34. ^ "Υπό δρακόντεια μέτρα η διαδήλωση των εκπαιδευτικών". Sigmalive.com.
  35. ^ "Cyprus President's Family Transferred Tens of Millions To London Days Before Deposit Haircuts". HPUB. 2013. Archived from the original on 30 December 2013. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  36. ^ "Anastasiades requests investigation into allegations against family members". EnetEnglish. 2013. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  37. ^ "Cypriot banks in politician loan scandal". EnetEnglish. 2013. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
  38. ^ "Cyprus to ease citizenship requirements, attacks EU "hypocrisy"". Reuters. 14 April 2013. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  39. ^ "Cyprus to ease citizenship rules for EU bailout losers". BBC. 14 April 2013. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  40. ^ a b "Investors Mull Freeing Cyprus Depositors – For a Price". The Wall Street Journal. 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  41. ^ "Distressed investing in Cyprus after the bail-in". International Financial Review. 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  42. ^ "Antiraiders in Cyprus: How Russians Are Saving Their Money". Forbes. 2013. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  43. ^ "V. Tutykhin interview" "Как отсудить деньги у кипрских банков". Forbes. 2013. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
  44. ^ Greek ΕΛΕΥΘΕΡΙΑ
  45. ^ "Η τριλογία της αποτυχίας μας" Φιλελεύθερος, 9 September 2012, economics section, page 1.