Cyprus: last Communist leads the EU, seeks Moscow aid

Christofias tries to avoid troika austerity

05 July, 19:22

(ANSAMed) - NICOSIA, JULY 5 - Cypriot President Demetris Christofias today took on his country's six-month term at the helm of the EU: a strange destiny for this atypical Communist, elected in 2008, the year his island adopted the euro.

Christofias, 66, is playing a double game to try to save his country's financial system, which has been overwhelmed by the Greek crisis, by exploiting his excellent relationship with Russia on the one hand, and trying to avoid EU-imposed austerity measures on the other. The IMF-ECB-EU troika is in Cyprus, going over the books before deciding whether to authorize an aid packet. But Cyprus will not back down on tax incentives to the private business sector. ''We raised taxes from 4 to 10% in 2008, the year we joined the euro zone, and 35,000 companies out of 100,000 left,'' government sources said.

Cyprus, whose faltering economy needs an estimated 4-10 billion euro injection, might ask Russia for aid to revitalize its economy, and the EU only for a packet to bail out its banks.

''I see nothing wrong with this,'' Christofias told reporters. ''Today's Russia is no longer the Soviet Union, and if their conditions are better than the EU's, why not? We're hoping for a positive response from Moscow.'' Christofias also needs to reactivate talks with Turkey about the division of the island, ''which have been stalled for two years, and this is Turkey's fault,'' the Cypriot President said, adding that Turkish threats to boycott his EU presidency is ''a boomerang, and Turkey is only isolating itself.'' Christofias went on to express his worry over the situation in Syria, adding that he hopes for a peaceful solution under UN leadership, and that Cyprus is ready to do its part. ''Life and the people will tell whether I am Europe's last Communist,'' Christofias said in response to a question from reporters. (ANSAMed).

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