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i Editor's Letter: Longest European bank holiday

 

First, there was Costas, a calm, articulate, middle-aged Cypriot, queuing to get some cash out of his bank, shortly to reopen after the longest enforced holiday in European history. He needed money specifically, he said, because he is to travel abroad.

Mr Lucas, 80, had brought an old wooden chair to sit on, and was tearfully emotional, referring in bitter sorrow to the "female Hitler" Angela Merkel.

They and others in the queue expressed succinctly a new truth for many southern Europeans: no matter what politicians and Eurocrats say, they have lost faith in the banking system.

Arguably, we all have, or never had it at all. But, as I have written, and the likes of Hamish McRae have explained ably, targeting ordinary people's deposits and current accounts crossed a line.

Listen to that queue, limited to a €300 daily withdrawal or €1,000 if going overseas: "I have shame for us, shame for Europe, our money is being stolen; no one is telling us anything about what's happening; they have to put limits in place or we would withdraw all our money and the banks will collapse; we would take all our money not only out of Cyprus, but out of Europe."

"Do you think they'll have the answers for you, then?" asked a reporter. "No," replied Costas. "But I still queue," he said with the remarkable stoicism that has characterised how peaceful Cypriots have been. These dignified people are mad as hell, and clearly in despair. They don't want to take it any more, but really don't know what they can do; not even how to protest. It is a state of affairs that cannot possibly last.

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