EU chief to lead last-minute negotiations on Cyprus deal

BRUSSELS – A top European official will chair a high-level meeting on Cyprus on Sunday afternoon in a last-ditch effort to seal a deal before finance ministers decide whether the country gets a 10 billion euro bailout loan to save it from bankruptcy.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Finance Minister Michalis Sarris were flying to Brussels early Sunday. The day of talks could prove critical — not only for the future of their small island nation, but for that of the 17-nation eurozone, as well.

Spokesman Preben Aamann could not confirm who would participate in the meeting, but said it would be led by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. The Council is the gathering of 27 EU heads of state and government.

Cyprus said European Council President Jose Manuel Barroso would also participate in the meeting led by Van Rompuy. The Council is the EU’s executive arm.

Following that session, Anastasiades will meet with Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, Christodoulides said.

Cyprus has been told it must raise 5.8 billion euros ($7.5 billion) in order to secure the loan from the IMF and other eurozone countries. The IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission will determine whether any plan put forward by Cyprus — or negotiated in the Van Rompuy meeting — meets that requirement.

The requirement is that Cyprus’ debt, including any new bailout loan, be sustainable over the long run, considering the size of the country’s economy.

To avoid bankruptcy or the collapse of its banking system, Cyprus needs significantly more than the 10 billion euros the international creditors are willing to lend it. For that reason, the country must somehow raise — and not through borrowing — the additional money.

The original plan, agreed to in marathon negotiations, called for a one-time “levy” on all bank depositors in Cypriot banks. The proposal ignited fierce anger among Cypriots and failed to garner a single vote in the Cypriot Parliament.

Any new proposal would have to be approved Sunday evening by the Eurogrop, the gathering of finance ministers from the 17 EU countries that use the euro currency.

If Cyprus or its banks were to collapse, officials fear that a lack of confidence could spread to other countries that use the euro, triggering higher borrowing costs or capital flight from those countries.

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