The protest culture of the cypriots – between self-criticism, composure and hatred of merkel

The protest culture of the Cypriots - between self-criticism, serenity and hatred of merkel

Queue in front of a bank on thursday. Image: w. Aswestopoulos

Why the international media representatives in the country are waiting in vain for the revolt a la greece

Cyprus’ burghers respond to the crisis in solidarity with one another, but in different ways individually. The protest culture is a mixture of british composure and oriental hotheadedness. As a rule, everything remains calm. There is no rioting on the part of autonomous groups, nor do the police have a tendency to quickly resort to trangas or truncheons. This is the reason why on thursday, despite the opening of the banks, everything remained calm. Many international media representatives reacted with disappointment. They wanted to see the same riot scenes with the greek cypriots as on similar occasions in greece. Bread and games before easter sells well.

Not burgers, employees storm the own banks

The fact that the bank run failed to materialize on thursday is due to other reasons besides the different culture. The banks opened at 12 o’clock. At that time, most of the younger people were still at work. Who would want to risk their job when unemployment was imminent, some asked, while others pointed out that there was hardly a cypriot who did not have a relative with a job at a bank.

The island’s small size means that people know each other. To storm a bank meant to act against one’s own friends, relatives or acquaintances. "The bank employees have nothing to do with the fact that the government passed these laws", the television has been proclaiming for days. Moreover, it is evident that cypriots like to demonstrate whenever they can surprise the state power.

The protest culture of the Cypriots - between self-criticism, serenity and hatred of merkel

Many felt like just crying on tuesday. Image: w. Aswestopoulos

Last tuesday, the feared bank run in nicosia failed to materialize. No wonder, because it was precisely because of fear of this that banks remained closed, despite arances to the contrary. The new decision was announced shortly before midnight on monday. Nevertheless, the burgers remained comparatively quiet on tuesday morning. No queues formed in front of the banks. Instead, a few young people gathered in the old town, protesting on the streets of nicosia, mainly against angela merkel and the eu. They see in the union a fascist system and in the chancellor a new adolf hitler.

Shortly after twelve o’clock at noon it was over with the peace also with the banks. The board of directors of the bank of cyprus, founded in 1922 during the colonial era, had learned from panikos dimitriades, the president of the central bank, that a special administrator was to run the bank from now on. The de facto ousted chairman of the board of directors, andreas artemis, together with all the members of the board of directors, resigned in unison. He criticized not only the special administrator, but also the transfer of more than 9.6 billion euros of debt that the broken laiki bank had accumulated to the european banking fund.

The protest culture of the Cypriots - between self-criticism, serenity and hatred of merkel

"Shame" protesters stick to the entrance of the central bank’s compound. Image: w. Aswestopoulos

The news spread like wildfire among the bank’s employees. Shortly before two o’clock, about a thousand of them had gathered in front of the bank’s headquarters south of the old town. They excitedly demanded to be let in. Hastily labeled protest posters proclaimed a disgrace, called on those responsible to be ashamed, and vehemently demanded the resignation of the head of the central bank and the dismissal of the special administrator. Many wept. The fear of job loss was evident everywhere.

Without any violence, the doors of the bank opened and the crowd poured in. The workers’ representative dimos dimosthenis, an employee of the bank since 1972, took over the coordination. He implored his colleagues to remain calm. "A special administrator is not an insolvency administrator", he promised, but added: "if the bank of cyprus falls, then the country is finished." the crowd moved on to kennedy avenue 100 meters away. There, too, the heavy gates of the central bank opened as if by magic. On the forecourt of the central bank, the crowd chanted its slogans.

Dimosthenis continued to make statements over the megaphone and whipped up the crowd to demand dimitriade’s resignation. He told telepolis: "this morning i was very optimistic. At last i expected a new dawn after the crisis. The decision of the central bank has rekindled the whole crisis. It is as if we want to destroy ourselves." asked if he seriously suspected that the german chancellor had intervened in this case, he replied in the negative, "i cannot confirm that".

Capital flight confirmed

His colleagues were unexpectedly eager to provide information because of their excitement. They reported 660 million euros that the former owner of laiki bank, andreas vgenopoulos, allegedly withdrew from the bank. They continued to confirm the outrageous rumor about the ongoing outflow of capital suffered by the bank of cyprus despite its closure, which has now lasted for twelve days.

The 126 branches in cyprus and, until monday, the 181 branches in greece remained closed. 190 branches in russia, 44 in ukraine, 10 in romania, four in great britain and one in the channel islands remained open. They were independent branches, operating independently of the head office and subject to european and national banking supervision. Neither the state banks, nor the ecb had noticed that accounts of banks supposedly closed to protect against capital flight were being withdrawn en masse from those who were supposedly prevented from doing so. This was another reason for the demonstrators to demand the resignation of dimitriades, who has served since the time of communist president christofias.

The numerous withdrawals of money from atms in cyprus contributed to the unchecked flight of capital. It is symptomatic of the state of banking in the country that there is still no exact figure of the actual amount. There is talk of hundreds of millions to billions. Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that the amount of participation of account holders with deposits of more than 100,000 euros cannot be determined.000 euros still cannot be determined. Here, too, an average loss of up to 50 percent for bank customers is still realistic.

The protest culture of the Cypriots - between self-criticism, serenity and hatred of merkel

Protester surrenders "the rags", the eu flag to the police. Image: w. Aswestopoulos

The haunting in front of the central bank ended as it began. Without violence and as if directed by a magic hand. First, a young bank employee plucked down the eu flag flying next to the national flag in front of the central bank. Demonstratively he walked towards the high-ranking police officer. The latter, fearing a symbolic burning, spoke insistently but quietly to the enraged banker. "Don’t worry, it’s not worth burning. I don’t want the rag, just as we don’t want the eu. He is yours", he said, handing over the crumpled flag and leaving.

For the photographers remained only unspectacular pictures. As an irony of history, only one day later, a shipment of several containers of cash sent by the ecb arrived at the same so easily stormed central bank from germany.

What the heck, we continue

Directly opposite the central bank is a kiosk with a bar. Professor avraam georgiou was shuffling his afternoon coffee here with his friends on tuesday afternoon. All three seem relaxed, even though they say they lost more than 100,000.000 euros per person. "That’s nothing, in 1974 during the invasion of the turks my family lost a total of values that could now be worth a billion. Then we started all over again, now also. So what, even then no one asked us if we wanted to become poor." georgiou is a professor of electrical engineering at the nicosia university of technology.

How do you assess the situation?? Avraam georgiou: i am very optimistic because now we know who we are and where we stand. Our president is unfortunately dangerous. He keeps taking the situation to extremes in order to save the people, as he says. But the positive thing about the crisis is that the masks have now fallen, those of the europeans, but also those of our leaders. We also have a bit of "greek genes", although not quite as bad. What is your personal opinion on the fuss about the participation of the account holders?? Avraam georgiou: if the first law had gone through, everything would have been smoother. It would have made everything easier. But we wanted to be heroes. National pride came to the fore. Sometimes we are just too greek. How to go on? Avraam georgiou: we must take responsibility. It is not only chancellor merkel, it is also the french, our traditional friends, who urged us to do so.

Almost traditionally in the evening, around 7 pm, start in front of the parliament the daily action of wakeup cyprus. It is the group whose posters with nazi symbols, accusations of a fourth reich and, above all, with the german chancellor’s likeness alienated by hitler’s beard fill the international gazettes. The group is organized and initiated mainly via facebook by haris violaris, a thirty-three-year-old headhunter and management consultant. His business, the placement of workers in luxembourg, is going badly in the crisis.

Do german tourists have to fear cyprus now, as some media like to explain it?? Haris violaris: no, the german tourists do not need to be afraid. We are not violent and we have nothing against the burghers. The political leadership of europe is our problem." why do you use these extreme posters, among others against the chancellor?? Haris violaris: because a crime is taking place. They destroyed the country and above all the future of our children. In general, the cypriots are not slavishly submissive. On the contrary, our society is based on love, respect, mutual understanding and cooperation in partnership. This is the europe we are fighting for and not the nazi germany of merkel." what would you like to say to mrs. Merkel personally?? Haris violaris: the mistakes of recent history are still fresh, the wounds are not yet completely healed. It should not be repeated again.

The protest culture of the Cypriots - between self-criticism, serenity and hatred of Merkel

Dimos, an 87-year-old cypriot, taking his parrot kostas, 67, for a walk and laughing at the fancy bank run. Image: w. Aswetsopoulos

Is the bank run now off the table??

Such declarations are typical for the island. The cheeky posters are followed by moderately and diplomatically worded declarations, even if this is often portrayed somewhat more exaggeratedly in many media outlets. Cyprus’ burghers have acquired a certain prudence due to the long british colonial period, which is not necessarily wrong.

"Why should i go to the bank today", said the doorman of the castelli hotel in nicosia, "three hundred euros may be withdrawn per day. This right is transferred to the following day. Then i’ll just go on monday and get 900 euros and that’s it."

The main rules for money transactions with banks are as follows:

  1. The cashing of checks or commercial bills of exchange is prohibited. It is allowed to deposit a check into an account.
  2. All non-cash payments are prohibited. In addition, there is an explicit ban on foreign transfers, but also on the export of cash. As an exception, only pre-existing obligations are exempt from this prohibition upon presentation of appropriate documents, if they: a. Serve the purpose of import with simultaneous presentation of documents b. Serve for housing and 10.000 euros or are payable for tuition fees. In the latter case, these fees may be paid only quarterly and the remitter is a relative in the first degree. C. Credit cards or debit cards may be used abroad only for a maximum amount of 5000 euros per person per month.
  3. It is forbidden to withdraw term deposits before their expiry.
  4. The export of cash for natural persons is capped at 3000 euros per person and trip, both in euros and in other currencies.
  5. The rules apply to any banking transactions that were not completed before the effective date of this notice.
  6. Any payment, banking transaction or transfer is prohibited to the financial institutions, if it is in any form of circumvention of these rules.
  7. The restrictions apply to all accounts, payments and transfers, irrespective of their respective protection.

The government had first announced that it had ied the restrictions for seven days and, if deemed necessary, with a subsequent automatic extension. Already on thursday morning the command was extended to "to four days and a prolongation only if necessary" .

This is exactly what some shrewd cypriots are counting on, but also a number of russians sitting in the hotels of nicosia and limasol, whose proverbial patience is widely known as a cliche. "If they make the mistake of lifting the restrictions because everything is going quietly", says cab driver parios, "then the next day everything is cleared in no time at all. But then you journalists are already somewhere else."

On thursday morning, parios explained, he himself drove some russian women to larnaka airport. The husbands remained on site in nicosia. Parios is sure the real bank run will happen just as employees storm against their own bank.

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