Cyprus Takes Over Rotating EU Presidency With Low Expectations
This week Cyprus took over the rotating presidency of the European Union.
As the main problem on the European agenda continues to be the European debt crisis, the Cypriot presidency is the equivalent of having the local bartender running Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Cyprus has just announced that it must seek a bailout due to its exposure to the Greek financial situation. As a small European country (population 862,000) that has been divided since 1974, Cyprus would have had a difficult time in any case; her economic condition simply compounds the problem.
The Financial Times quoted one European diplomat who described expectations about the Cypriot presidency "The expectations are now so low that they can only surprise in a positive way.”."
The Cypriot president Demetris Christofias is not the average humble bailout recipient. He has accused the EU and the IMF for behaving like a "colonial force" in Greece in drawing up that country's austerity program.
Christofias is a declared communist, and although the Soviet Union is no longer around, he'll take the next best thing in terms of Russia. He has been a declared admirer of Vladimir Putin and last year the object of veneration extended Cyprus a loan of €2.5 billion.
Cyprus will be asking for more at the same time that it is asking the EU and the IMF for financial help. Britain, with two bases on the island, may also be involved in the rescue.
In Brussels they are worried about Cyprus' pro-Russian orientation, cemented by the fact that Russians have billions parked in Cypriot banks. Christofias has called Russia a "strategic partner" and noted that Russia made loans on generous terms- without asking for a quid pro quo. This notion of Vladimir Putin as the good fairy, generously handing out millions in loans, has European diplomats tearing their hair out.
It is necessary to believe in fairy godmothers, for an EU-IMF bailout generally means a dose of austerity. As a confirmed Marxist-Leninist, Christofias will resist these policies as he has done for most of his presidency.
Elections are due in 8 months and the Communist ideology is stiffened by the political realization that European governments imposing austerity have been voted out of office.
Addressing a near empty European Parliament at Strasbourg, the Cypriot president launched a broadside against failed European policies that relied on economic liberalism.