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Cypriot report
by Euro Reporter
2013-10-21 10:04:33
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Cyprus to Help Syria's Weapons Inspectors

Cyprus has approved the creation of a support base for the chemical weapons inspectors working in Syria, including the use of an old airport that will allow them to travel between the two countries by helicopter.

The Cypriot government said Friday its goal is to help with the inspectors' difficult mission of destroying Syria's chemical weapons arsenal during the country's civil war. The base will be located at a disused Nicosia airport inside the U.N.-controlled buffer zone that separates the island's Greek-speaking south and Turkish-speaking north.

Inspectors also will be able to stay at hotels in Nicosia, which is about 140 miles (225 kilometres) from the Syrian port of Latakia. The mission in Syria is being conducted by the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.


Cyprus situation would have been handled differently would I have been Chair, says Juncker

Former President of the Eurogroup Jean –Claude Juncker admitted last night that would he have been the chairman when the decisions were taken on Cyprus economy, the situation “would have been handled in a different way”. Juncker held a meeting with the President of the House of Representatives Yiannakis Omirou who is paying a two-day working visit to Luxembourg. Speaking to the press after the meeting, Juncker said that he takes a great interest in what is happening in Cyprus given the fact that he, as a Chairman of the Eurogroup, had to deal with the Cyprus problem and was preparing the decisions, which were finally taken in March 2013. “Would I have been in the chair, it would have been handled in a different way”, he noted.

He went on to say that he was informed by the House Speaker on the living conditions of the Cypriot citizens, the situation of the banking sector as well as the division of the island, recalling that Luxembourg supported Cyprus and its EU accession. “It was a fruitful and very interesting meeting and I was happy to have the Cypriot Chair of the Parliament as a special guest today”, he said. Cypriot House President, who earlier met with the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Laurent Mosar, noted the significance of Juncker’s statement as regard the Eurogroup decisions on Cyprus last March. He welcomed the long-lasting stance on behalf of the Prime Minister, which, he stressed, is based on the European principles of solidarity and social inclusion. Cyprus requested and received a €10 billion financial assistance package from the Troika (EC, ECB, IMF) which featured a sizeable reduction of the island’s banking sector, as well as bail-in of uninsured deposits.

Under the aid package agreed in March, Cyprus closed one bank, the Laiki Bank, whereas deposits over 100,000 Euros held at the island’s biggest lender, Bank of Cyprus, lost 47.5% of their value, after being converted into bank shares. Omirou also expressed his gratitude for Luxembourg’s position on the Cyprus issue, recalling that during the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU in 2005, initiatives had been taken for the return of the fenced-off city of Famagusta to its legal inhabitants. House President also said that during the meeting with the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Chamber he underlined the role that the EU can play in view of the scheduled resumption of the Cyprus talks. He noted that the EU must have a more active contribution, given the fact that Cyprus is an EU member and its occupied territories are in fact European. Omirou stressed that a diplomat from the EU, a former Prime Minister or Minister who has status, is impartial and objective should be appointed as a special envoy to monitor the talks and safeguard that the provisions of the solution are based on the international law and the acquis communautaire. He also said that the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy who was recently in Cyprus, has a positive view on this position.


We are the generation of 500 Euros

Just over six months on from the Cyprus bailout, what's the situation like for people on the ground? Grim, says our newest "Austerity Kid", 24-year old Maria Christodoulou. In March this year, tiny Cyprus - and its bloated banking sector - became the latest eurozone country to be forced into a bailout by the "troika" - the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. People took to the streets, with children protesting that their futures were being stolen by austerity, but ultimately the island swallowed its economic medicine: a €10bn rescue package in return for a raid on bank accounts containing more than €100,000, alongside cash withdrawal restrictions and, of course, austerity measures. These have taken the form of tax rises and strict cuts, including to salaries, government budgets, and jobs. It has all taken a heavy toll on the Cypriot economy, as well as its people.

Andreas Theophanous, president of the Cyprus Centre for European and International Affairs at the University of Nicosia, summed up the mood in a September briefing paper. "In reality what has happened is an unprecedented attack on Cyprus' financial sector that takes the country back decades. The euro group decisions have paralysed the financial system of the country... Effectively, the troika decisions have pushed Cyprus from a recession to a depression," he wrote. Unemployment is one of the biggest problems: it jumped by 43 per cent in the last year, the fastest increase in the European Union. In May 2013, it was 16.3 per cent. For young people, it's even worse - closer to 30 per cent. Maria Christodoulou, a 24-year-old Cypriot living in Nicosia, told Channel 4 News' Austerity Kids project that the situation felt hopeless. "It's not only young people, but it is more hard for us because we have just finished our studies, we have dreams, but we can't move forward because of the crisis," she said. When Maria finished her degree in 2010, which she took in Crete, she struggled to find a job. "No-one hired me as a teacher because I didn't have any experience, so I started looking for another kind of job. As an example, secretary. No-one hired me as a secretary because I was overqualified, they said," she said.

In common with many young people, she went back into education, completing her masters degree in journalism in June this year. But the situation has only got bleaker since her last job hunt. In some ways, Maria is one of the lucky ones; she was accepted on a government programme for young people to get work experience, alongside a small salary of 500 Euros a month. But she says no-one can live on that: "We are the generation of 500 Euros. Who can live in Cyprus for 500 Euros? I can't but I am trying." She said people are so desperate for jobs that they can't complain or leave even if conditions are difficult. "The problem is that they exploit us and we can't support our job rights because we don't want to lose our job. The answer from employers if you complain about something is: 'You don't like it? Go somewhere else if you can!' because they know that it is very difficult to find a job nowadays." She said for many people in her generation, their hopes for the future have died. "I am almost 25 years old and I have zero Euros in the bank. How can I keep dreaming for a better future?" she asked.

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