Tuesday 20 March 2018

Even a national holiday can't brighten the mood as locals tell of anger and frustration

THE day after the bailout deal was supposed to be one of celebration. Yesterday was a bank holiday in Cyprus to mark Greek independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1822.

A parade of marching bands went through the city centre in the morning. But the mood of onlookers and many of those taking part was sombre.

"I'm sick of talking about it. We are here to enjoy the parade and to forget about things," said one woman.

However, even this was not possible as marchers unfurled banners. 'Cyprus is not for sale,' read one. Another declared: 'We are not going to sell our country for 30 pieces of silver'.

Despite the agreement reached in Brussels, money remains in short supply.

Off-duty Greek soldiers Manos (26) and Marios (21) had already been at two other ATMs by the time the Irish Independent met them shortly after the parade, outside the Laiki bank on Philokyprou Street in Nicosia's historic Old City.

"The first machine was out of order. And the second one told me there was no money in my account, even though I know there is," said Manos with a shrug.

The pair are part of a permanent force that Greece keeps in Cyprus and said there was much anxiety at their base as the soldiers were finding it difficult to access cash.

Their luck was not much better at Philokyprou Street, with Manos's card being spat back out, and they trudged off empty handed in search of another cash machine.

A few minutes later, two bank officials began filling up the machine, much to the relief of those queueing.

But even with the ATM replenished, there were still strict limits on what people could take out.

"It only let me have €100," said Titos Avraamides (22), a university student.

"It was the same yesterday. Honestly, we are fed up."

After the parade, hundreds of young people headed for the coffee shops on Ledra Street – the equivalent of Dublin's Grafton Street.

Although the sun was out and a brisk trade was being done in iced coffees and lemonade, the talk at the tables was serious.

Everyone knew the broad details of the bailout – a €10bn loan from Europe in return for sorting out the banks. But the long-term implications of the conditions attached were bothering people most.

What would happen to the financial services sector after rich depositors were burned by the deal?

Eleanna Timbauidou (26), below top, who works for a media monitoring company, couldn't hide her frustration.

"The media are not enlightening people. All the focus is on the banks and there is no analysis of what it will mean for jobs and the future of the country," she said.

In the Kala Kalathoumena Cafe, students Chrysovalanto Kyriakou (18) and Valentina Gogaki (19), left, agreed that there was still a lot of confusion.

"We don't know what the next day will bring," said Chrysovalanto.

Patrons of the Corner coffee shop in the sleepy village of Dali, 10km from Nicosia, were no less exercised by the details of the deal. "It looks very bad and it's all anyone is talking about," said owner Lacovos Petrou (39), above. "At least they are not going after the poor people. They are taking it off the sharks," he said.

Irish Independent

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