Exclusive: Euro zone call notes reveal extent of alarm over Cyprus

Thu Mar 21, 2013 8:15am EDT
 
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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Euro zone finance officials acknowledged being "in a mess" over Cyprus during a conference call on Wednesday and discussed imposing capital controls to insulate the region from a possible collapse of the Cypriot economy.

In detailed notes of the call seen by Reuters, one official described emotions as running "very high", making it difficult to come up with rational solutions, and referred to "open talk in regards of (Cyprus) leaving the euro zone".

The call was among members of the Eurogroup Working Group, which consists of deputy finance ministers or senior treasury officials from the 17 euro zone countries as well as representatives from the European Central Bank and the European Commission. The group is chaired by Austria's Thomas Wieser.

Cyprus decided not to take part in the call, a decision that several participants described as troubling and reflecting the wider confusion surrounding the island's predicament.

"The (Cypriot) parliament is obviously too emotional and will not decide on anything, if Cyprus does not even feel that they can attend the call it is a big problem for us," the French representative said, according to the notes seen by Reuters.

"We have never seen this."

The German representative raised the need to learn more about capital outflows from Cyprus to Russia and Britain, and emphasized that "we stand ready to find a solution immediately" as long as the parameters of the bailout agreed among euro zone finance ministers on Saturday are respected.

The official also referred to the need to resolve the issue of Cyprus's two biggest banks, both of which are close to collapse, and mentioned the possibility of Cyprus leaving the euro zone.

In the event of an exit, the official said steps needed to be taken to "ring-fence" the rest of the euro zone from the impact and to ensure there was no contagion to Greece.   Continued...

 
Cyprus Central Bank Governor Panicos Demetriades makes statements outside the presidential palace in Nicosia March 21, 2013. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis