Open Europe Blog

At some point yesterday, it became clear that Cypriot President Nicos Anastastasiades would not have sufficient support to push the deal on the deposit tax through parliament – at least not in its current form.

That led to an extension of the bank holiday to at least Thursday, the parliamentary vote being moved to 4pm GMT today (from yesterday) and the Eurogroup holding a teleconference yesterday evening.
The result of the conference was this statement, the key part being:
The Eurogroup continues to be of the view that small depositors should be treated differently from large depositors and reaffirms the importance of fully guaranteeing deposits below EUR 100.000. The Cypriot authorities will introduce more progressivity in the one-off levy compared to what was agreed on 16 March, provided that it continues yielding the targeted reduction of the financing envelope and, hence, not impact the overall amount of financial assistance up to EUR 10bn.

The statement seems to be more of a hand washing exercise than a definitive end to the issues plaguing the Cypriot bailout – i.e. do whatever you need to in order to raise the €5.8bn but don’t blame us for your political troubles.

Ultimately, it is not clear that deposits below €100,000 will not be taxed. The two options on the table remain:
          Depositors with up to €100,000, taxed at 3%; those with €100,000 to €500,000 taxed at 10%; and those with over €500,000 taxed at 15%. (This could also include an exemption of deposits below €20,000).
          Tax deposits over €100,000 at 15.2% and exempt deposits below €100,000.
How much difference will this move make?
Well, removing the burden on smaller depositors would be a positive one, as we have suggested. That said, with the cat out of the bag as it were, this is unlikely to dial down frustrations or concerns significantly. This option is now on the table and the political divisions it has exposed are unlikely to be easily papered over.
Despite the fact that it seems the Cypriot government played a large role in the decision to structure the tax to hit smaller depositors in the first place, the anti-German feeling seems to be rising. Meanwhile, we still believe that the position of the government – which was elected on the basis of ruling out losses for any (large or small, foreign or domestic) depositors – remains precarious.
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