By Stefanos Evripidou
DUTCH FOREIGN Minister Frans Timmermans yesterday praised the way the Cyprus government and people are implementing the financial adjustment programme agreed with their international lenders, saying it is an inspiration for the rest of Europe.
Speaking at a joint press conference with his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kassoulides in Nicosia, Timmermans saluted the way Cyprus has stuck to the agreement reached with the Eurogroup last March on the €10bn bailout which included a substantial raid on uninsured deposits in the Bank of Cyprus and Laiki (Popular) Bank, winding down the latter and the transfer of €9bn in debt, , and the imposition of capital controls for the first time in the Eurozone.
The adjustment programme also includes provisions for a wide range of public spending cuts and salary reductions, as well as the contentious stipulation for the privatisation of some of the many semi-government organisations.
“The way also in which the people have taken the responsibility in implementing the agreement which is very difficult and painful to them, I think is an inspiration to the rest of Europe,” said Timmermans, adding that as a result Cyprus will come out of this crisis stronger.
Even though there was a lot of skepticism before, the agreement reached is actually working, thanks to the fact that the Cypriot government and people are willing to implement it to the full, he said.
The Dutch minister reiterated the strong partnership between Cyprus and the Netherlands, saying that the two countries share the same values in terms of European integration and solving the crisis in a way that is bearable to the people and underlines European solidarity.
Timmermans rejected the view that there is a north-south divide in Europe, arguing there is only one Europe and one solution to the common problems.
Kasoulides said he briefed his counterpart on the ongoing efforts to address the financial crisis and implement the adjustment programme in full, as well as on the latest developments in the Cyprus problem.
The Cypriot minister also expressed the government’s appreciation for the return by the Netherlands of the stolen icons from the Church of Christ Antifonitis in Kalogrea in the occupied north.
“This underlines the unwavering commitment of both Cyprus and the Netherlands to the protection of our common European culture and heritage. It also reaffirms the need to respect all the provisions of the 1954 Hague convention and its protocols by all the contractive states,” he said.
The two ministers also discussed the situation in Syria and ways to tackle the refugee and other humanitarian issues in the volatile region of Eastern Mediterranean.
Timmermans also met with President Nicos Anastasiades and Archbishop Chrysostomos II, after which he visited the Byzantine Museum to view some of the stolen icons and religious art returned to Cyprus in recent years.