Cyprus Rejects Eurogroup’s Saving Levy and Bailout Deal
The Cypriot parliament has rejected the EU/IMF bailout for the country’s banks.Support for the deal, which would have involved a one-off charge on all deposit accounts in the country, ebbed away almost as soon as it was announced on Saturday at the Eurogroup meeting. Before rejecting the package Cypriot MPs had already decided to exempt any savers with 20,000 euros or less in their accounts, but this was not enough to gain support.
The Eurogroup said the charge was justified because Cyprus has allowed its banking sector to mushroom, Iceland style, into a monster that is more than twice the size of the rest of the economy, and has sucked in so much foreign money, much of it Russian, that foreign deposits account for 37% of all savings in Cyprus. The Cypriots countered by saying they have a right to build up a services sector which they accuse Germany of wanting to destroy, and that they are being targeted because of ongoing disagreements with Moscow that the EU should work out elsewhere.
The European public has not failed to notice the one big fact to emerge from this latest crisis in the Eurozone. That is, no-one’s money appears safe any more, unless its stuffed under the mattress. The implications for the EU’s already hard-pressed banking system are obvious. A collapse in confidence at this stage of the game could prove fatal for the entire European project. Yet although the Cypriot “no” vote appears to have struck a blow for ordinary people it plunges the country into a deeper crisis, one that could have serious repercussions for the rest of Europe.
Bombs Rock Turkish Capital
Two devices have exploded outside Turkey’s foreign ministry and the head office of the ruling AK Party in the capital Ankara. At least two people have been wounded according to Turkish media reports. A grenade was used in the attack on the Justice ministry, while the AKP offices were targeted with a rocket launcher.
Police have arrested two people, but for the moment no-one has claimed responsibility for the attack. One source speculated the attacks may have been to derail peace negotiations currently underway between the government and the Kurds. On Thursday their jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan is expected to announce a unilateral ceasefire to mark the Kurdish New Year.
Pope Francis Holds his Inauguration Mass
The inauguration Mass for Pope Francis has been held in St Peter’s Square in Rome, marking the start of his papacy. In bright sunshine the Bishop of Rome toured the square in an open top white jeep abandoning the bullet-proof Popemobile favoured by Benedict. He greeted the faithful including young babies one of whom was handed up to him on his jeep while later he descended from the vehicle to bless a handicapped person in the crowd.
The Bishop of Rome then went inside the Basilica and processed to the tomb of St. Peter with trumpets sounding and the choir singing “Tu es Petrus”. He prayed at the tomb. It was a deeply personal moment for the man who at the age of 17 felt called to enter the priesthood. In front of the crowd and world leaders who were seated outside in the Basilica the Pallium, recalling the Good Shepherd who carries the lost sheep on his shoulders, was placed around Pope Francis. Cardinal Deacon Sodano then put the Fisherman’s Ring on Francis’s finger. The ring was chosen by the Pope and is made of gold-plated silver and depicts St. Peter holding the keys. The Mass then followed which officially installed Francis as the new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.