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Eurozone crisis

Cypriots wonder what comes next

Cypriots face hard choices. On Thursday the banks finally open again, but economists predict a long-lasting recession that will destroy many jobs.

The decision is difficult for Dimitri Vargosiolis. The craftsman has 8000 euros in his account. Should he take it all out? Or not? "If I get the money out, then I'll have to hide it somewhere at home," he said. "If someone steals it, I've got no money. And if I leave it in the bank, same thing." He and his friends are becoming ever more uncertain.

They sit together in Tomis Christodoulou's hair salon. It has a chair, a mirror and many faded photographs on the walls. They have plenty of time to talk. Since the banks were closed, hardly anyone had cash for a haircut. Money is scarce and Christodoulous' barber chair is empty.

Black market clash

What to do? Christodoulous takes out his bouzouki and plays, while the others sing along. Many Cypriots I have met in recent days in my talks on the island are surprisingly relaxed. The crisis is getting worse - but in the evening, the cafes in the center of Nicosia are filled to the last seat. In one of the cafes I ended up talking to two young Cypriots. "I'm a tax accountant," said one, "I move dirty money," said the other. I thought this was a joke. Whenever I mentioned illicit income to someone in the last 10 days, they denied that such a thing exists in Cyprus.

A barber reads a newspaper in his empty shop
(Photo: Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

With no business, there's plenty of time to chat

But the young man in the cafe said: "No joke, that's really what I do." What did he do now with the bank levy and capital controls? "That does not matter, most of my clients' money is safe," he said. And added: "If we can't deposit dirty money here anymore, then I'll just go to Malta or Luxembourg. Or to Germany. Is it good to deposit dirty money there?" I had no answer.

Divided opinions

There's a lot of talk about Germany, the Germans and their government in Cyprus these days. Some, such as an elderly businessman who operates a fashion boutique in the main shopping street, the Ledras, curse the German government. "They left their European friends in the lurch." he said. And: "They first want to control Cyprus, then Europe and then the world." But there are many who think differently about the role of the German government. "They are showing how to do it right. Germany is successful and strong." said another man. "That should be an example for our government."

Students protest against austerity measures in front of Cypriot Presidential House
(Photo: Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

Cypriots have taken to the streets in protest

Many young people are also angry at their own government - school leavers who see no future in their own country. Every day, thousands take to the streets and protest loudly against the government "bleeding the country dry," as they describe it.

In fact, economists are predicting a long recession for the country. Many people will lose their jobs. "We do not want to leave Cyprus," said a young girl who had just started at university. "But we have no other choice." She wanted to go somewhere else after her studies: "Maybe to Germany." Cyprus will probably need a long time to recover from the crisis and its consequences.

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