Cyprus Mail

After London, Berlin beckons

President Anastasiades and Lord Mayor of the City of London Fiona Woolf.

By Stefanos Evripidou

FOLLOWING FROM his four-day official visit to London, President Nicos Anastasiades is set to visit another key European capital in May, on the invite of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Speaking from London on the last day of the UK visit, government spokesman Christos Stylianides yesterday confirmed press reports that the president has received an invitation from the German Chancellor to visit Berlin in early May.

Local daily Alithia reported that the visit will take place on May 6.

Anastasiades hailed his visit to London as being of “historic” importance, following the signing of an agreement to allow commercial and industrial development on private property within the area of the British Bases on the island.

The deal incorporates 78 per cent of Bases’ territory (198 square kilometers) into the Cyprus Republic’s planning zones, allowing residents and owners of property in the Bases to go beyond housing construction and develop property for commercial or industrial purposes.

The Cypriot authorities will be responsible for issuing the necessary permits, after securing the prior consent of the Bases.
Anastasiades held meetings with the UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague, while three of his ministers (foreign affairs, finance and energy) also held meetings on the sidelines of the visit.

Cameron and Anastasiades also appeared to see eye-to-eye on the need for reform of the EU, though it remains to be seen what in practice this means.

The UK PM has pledged to renegotiate Britain’s role in the EU and hold a referendum on EU accession in 2017 should he be re-elected in 2015.

Based on recent statements by British Chancellor George Osborne, the UK wants to see the EU Treaties renegotiated so that non-euro members of the Single Market can be afforded greater protection from the instability and uncertainty coming from the monetary union.

Having been at the raw end of a euro crisis beating last March, Anastasiades knows only too well that the current structure of the Eurozone is not problem-free.

Many observers argue Germany’s reluctance to adopt and implement a fiscal union to complement the monetary union ensures the euro crisis will not go away and always keep the weaker Eurozone countries vulnerable to fiscal crises.

Ironically, a more integrated, closer Eurozone would benefit the more Euro-sceptic British government as it would stabilise the EU economy as a whole and get the Single Market moving.

Anastasiades’ visit to Berlin will be his first as president, and the first following the Eurogroup’s decision to demand a bail-in of Cypriot banks in exchange for a €10 billion international bailout of Cyprus.

In the run-up to that decision, German lawmakers and media embarked on a campaign to paint a picture of Cypriot banks as being overloaded with Russian “dirty money”, with the argument often heard that German taxpayers will not pay for Russian oligarchs and gangsters.

More recently, a German MEP visiting Cyprus to investigate the actions of the troika in bailout countries told the Cyprus Mail that in future, before imposing a haircut on bank deposits, the troika should take into account the particularities of each country.

For example, Cyprus does not have as advanced a social system as in Germany or Sweden, meaning families very often save all their money for education, healthcare or retirement purposes in banks.

These savings, along with pension funds and charity accounts, also fell victim to the raid on bank deposits of the island’s two biggest banks last March.

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