Cyprus ‘Czech-mated’

A sovereign state was bullied into accepting a diktat – in the case of Czechoslovakia the loss of a third of its territory to Nazi Germany.

czech republic flag_311 (photo credit: Laszlo Balogh / Reuters)
czech republic flag_311
(photo credit: Laszlo Balogh / Reuters)
What happened to Cyprus in the early hours of March 25 and in the lead-up meeting of March 15 in Brussels, the headquarters of the European Union, was qualitatively no different than what happened to Czechoslovakia on September 29, 1938 in Munich of Nazi-controlled Germany.
In both cases a small, independent sovereign state was bullied into accepting a diktat – in the case of Czechoslovakia the loss of about a third of its territory to Nazi Germany, and in the case of Cyprus the virtual destruction of its economy for the benefit of the German-dominated eurozone.
In both cases, Western governments – democratic governments, it should be emphasized – did not merely stand by, they actually cheered the results and praised the bully-in-chief.
The most important European democracies of 1938, England and France, welcomed the Munich abomination in spite of their treaty obligations and moral commitments to stand by Czechoslovakia against the Nazis. The leaders of England and France reported triumphantly back home that what had transpired in Munich preserved peace and stability on the European continent. This is precisely what the 16 members of the Eurogroup said of the Cyprus diktat – that it preserved stability in the eurozone.
Don’t take the word of official Cyprus about the bullying tactics of the German-dominated Eurogroup, namely that Cyprus was forced to capitulate at gunpoint by its partners. Here is how the finance minister of Malta, Edward Scicluna, a participant in the March 15 Eurogroup lead-up meeting, described, in the Times of Malta on March 19, the bullying that transpired: “All this was ‘agreed’ to by the Cypriot government representative who, with a pistol to the head, was naturally unusually co-operative.
But it took 10 long hours before the Cypriot minister’s body and soul became exhausted enough for him to assent to the accord. As soon as that happened [German Finance Minister Wolfgang ] Schäuble demanded that all wire transfers to and from Cyprus banks would cease forthwith.”
This is what passes for EU solidarity these days.
As a result the Cypriot economy, that topped the performance of the nine other candidates for EU membership in 2004 and performed on par or even better than most other European economies until the global crisis of 2008, now lies prostrate.
Except for the loss of life in the brutal 1974 military invasion of Cyprus by Turkey – when one percent of the Cypriot population was slaughtered by a NATO army – what the Cypriots are now going through is worse.
Then, the Turkish army seized about a third of Cypriot territory, two-thirds of its wealth and ethnically cleansed the indigenous population of the conquered territory. But Cypriot resilience prevailed and in five years the lost wealth was regained.
This time, however, the Eurogroup’s decisions injected a cancerous cell in every Cypriot household. You can certainly fight cancer, to a degree. But you can also suffer for the rest of your life, or die from it as well.
The Eurogroup has subjected Cypriots to a double economic abomination. It ordered part of their savings confiscated and the rest frozen. In true Orwellian fashion, this has been called a “tax” on savings, or a “haircut.”
It was in fact outright robbery.
Thievery is also “freezing” a person’s deposits and denying him/her the right to do whatever the heck he wants with them.
They did that, too.
The bullies of Brussels had to have a good sounding excuse for their theft. So they arbitrarily decided that the savings of Cypriots were “mafia money” – stolen money, from someone, somewhere. Perhaps some hardworking Russians. So they decided to punish the Cypriot “sinners” by stealing their savings themselves. Is this the latest version of the “protestant ethnic” up in the European north? The world has a short memory, but some people do remember.
Or read history. The outright confiscation of private property in the western world has occurred twice before: In Nazi- Germany against German Jews and other “sub-humans”; and in Nazi-sympathizing Turkey, which in 1942 enacted legislation, the infamous Varlik Vergisi, or “wealth tax,” enabling the Turkish state to confiscate the property of Turkish citizens – Greeks, Armenians and Jews – and sending those who could not pay into “exile” in desert Anatolia, from which most did not return.
The EU, obsequious to a resurgent Germany, is now acting as the enabler of econocide (destruction of an economy) and consequently of cratocide (destruction of a state) against the Republic of Cyprus – one of its smallest members.
Shame on the spineless, sinister and self-serving EU. And twice shame on the rest of the hypocritical Europeans who stand by and watch the destructive bullying of a defenseless state in their midst.
The author is professor of international relations at Panteion university in Athens.