Not all Cypriots celebrate EU bailout rejection | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 20.03.2013
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Not all Cypriots celebrate EU bailout rejection

Did Cyprus really turn its back on the EU? While some Cypriots were cheering the bailout rejection, others would have favored a far different outcome. The question remains: which one is the majority?

It was as if Cyprus had just won the Euro soccer championship.

As a member of Cyprus' parliament stepped out before the throngs of onlookers and informed them that parliamentarians had decided to reject the EU's bailout conditions, Cypriots in the capital of Nicosia burst into cheers. The celebrating went on for minutes.

Cypriot members of parliament (MPs) vote on a controversial bailout agreement (Photo: Yiannis Kourtoglou/AFP/Getty Images)

Cyprus' MPs voted against the bailout and were hailed by many Cypriots and Russians

Thousands of Cypriots - joined by quite a few Russians - had been standing in front of parliament for hours since late Tuesday afternoon (19.03.2013). Chants of "Russia! Russia!" seemed to express hope that Russia - rather than the EU - would step in and offer the billions of euros necessary to save Cyprus' banks. And indeed, negotiations with Russia were announced shortly after the parliamentary decision.

While the Mediterranean island's parliament had clearly distanced itself from the eurozone by voting against the bailout, many are left wondering: Is Cyprus as a whole turning its back on the EU?

Not everyone rejects the EU's plans

Just a couple of hours earlier in downtown Nicosia, Cypriots had not been so quick to attack the bailout conditions set by the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Both of those institutions had demanded that Cyprus contribute financially to the rescuing of its own banks. Individual bank account savings in excess of 20,000 euros ($26,000) were slated to be taxed at a rate of 6.5 percent. Those with savings of more than 100,000 euros would have been taxed at 10 percent.

"I would be willing to pay 15 percent," a Nicosia merchant told DW. Like many other Cypriots, he has saved large amounts of money for his retirement.

"I'm willing to give up [a portion of] that money in order to end the crisis," he said.

'Economic fascism'

For many of those demonstrating in front of Cyprus' parliament, however, the parliamentary decision was not just a victory but a message to the government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel has been criticized for Germany's hard stance when it comes to billions in bailout money for struggling eurozone countries - not just in Cyprus, but also in Greece and other crisis-stricken eurozone members.

A Cypriot man holds a banner against the EU bailout deal and German Chancellor Angela Merkel's call for Cyprus to follow economic reforms outside the parliament building (Photo: Yiannis Kourtoglou/AFP/Getty Images)

Merkel is not all too popular with crisis-stricken eurozone countries

In Nicosia, an elderly woman held up a poster with an image of Merkel overlaid with a Nazi SS uniform. The woman told DW that someone needed to put an end to "German economic fascism." Many such images have been broadcast internationally.

Yet most of the Cypriots DW spoke to were in favor of the levy that would have prevented Cyprus from leaving the EU. Some said they would have preferred parliament to have passed the new law - that they, in other words, would not choose to turn away from the EU.

At this point, however, it's hard to say which group represents the majority in Cyprus.

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