No money laundering in Cyprus, Christofias tells Parliament
By Olivier Mirguet in Strasbourg | Tuesday 15 January 2013
“It is being rumoured that Cyprus is a tax haven. We are even being asked to provide evidence. That is regrettable and unfair. It is a distortion of the truth,” stated Cyprus’ President Demetris Christofias, on 15 January, at a press conference at the European Parliament.
Asked about the country’s sovereign debt and international financial aid that will be provided to its banking system, he spoke at length about his country’s “capacity to enforce rules and directives on money laundering” dictated by the European Union.
On the expected amount of aid, Christofias said that “€10 billion would enable us to reduce the debt,” implying that the banking system would require additional capital. In December 2012, the preliminary results of a banking sector audit assessed needs at €17 billion. “We have been holding talks with the troika [Commission, European Central Bank and IMF - Ed] since July 2012. The delays do not result from the Cypriot government,” observed Christofias, who was unable to answer reporters’ questions on the amount needed to recapitalise banks. “We are waiting to obtain details before confirming the amount of the debt,” he said. “Precise amounts will have to be set in order to reach an agreement with the troika and other players willing to lend to us. Our capital needs are tied to measures affecting the Greek debt. It would be fair for the institutions to participate directly in recapitalising banks, rather than going through the state budget.”
For European Parliament President Martin Schulz, the troika’s role in this management of the Cypriot crisis is “problematic”. “The troika should come before the European Parliament to justify the measures it adopts for Cyprus,” he declared, “because citizens are under the impression that they are being governed by an obscure power”. Rebecca Harms (Germany), co-chair of the Greens-EFA group, noted that “the Cypriots would be well advised to react and to confront criticisms” of money laundering. “They need to lay their cards on the table and be frank,” she advised.
Christofias was invited to Parliament as the outgoing European Council president to sum up the country’s achievements during the latter half of 2012. “Important ground work was done,” acknowledged European Commission President José Barroso in his remarks to Parliament. He congratulated Christofias for his “very successful” Presidency. “The Cyprus Presidency managed to oblige the Council to hold regular negotiations with Parliament, despite many obstacles. It was an outstanding mediator,” added Schulz. The Cyprus EU Presidency drew to a close within weeks of the announced departure of the Communist president of the Republic of Cyprus, following the national general elections of 17 and 24 February.