HUFFINGTON POST
11/20/2014 09:06 am ET Updated Nov 20, 2014

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades: 'We Became The Guinea Pig Of Europe'

When Nicos Anastasiades won a landslide victory in the country's February 2013 presidential election, Cyprus was facing its worst financial crisis in decades. Its banks were near collapse.

During his first month in office, Anastasiades struck a deal with the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank to keep the Republic of Cyprus in the Eurozone and save the nation from bankruptcy.

In October, Cyprus' government boasted that while the 10-billion-euros bailout had been controversial, the economic reforms the country has adopted since March 2013 are yielding results. Reuters reported earlier this month that quarterly data show the country's recession is losing steam.

This week, Anastasiades sat down for an exclusive interview with HuffPost Greece's Editorial Director Sophia Papaioannou and Editor-in-Chief Nikos Agouros ahead of the launch of HuffPost Greece, which debuted Thursday.

The president told HuffPost that while he was disappointed with the way Europe handled the financial crisis, Cyprus' economy is now on the path to recovery.

Mr. President, what is the current financial situation in Cyprus?
I think it is obvious that Cyprus is on the path to recovery. Within 15 months, we managed to re-enter the international capital markets, something extremely significant for an economy on a verge of collapse and disorderly bankruptcy.

How are you planning on tackling unemployment?
Exclusively through new investments and the creation of new jobs. I believe that in 2015 we will turn things around and enter an era of hope to recover, exactly as we did after the disaster of 1974.

When do you think Cyprus will exit the memorandum?
Sooner than originally thought. I hope that instead of the year 2017, it will probably happen in the beginning of 2016, but we are not in a position to know the exact date.

Do you think it was an effective solution?
While it had a detrimental effect for the citizens, it was an effective solution.

Were you disappointed by the way Europe handled the economy of Cyprus?
To be honest, I was disappointed by the position adopted by my good friends in this time of need, but unfortunately you cannot only blame those who are obliged to implement austere measures. The state itself is also responsible for committing a series of mistakes or for allowing others to use the country as a guinea pig.

In the interview, Anastasiades also addressed escalating tensions with Turkey.

Last month, Cyprus accused Turkey of sending a scientific vessel accompanied by warships into Cyprus' exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to hunt for oil and natural gas. Cyprus had earlier suspended island reunification talks with Turkish-Cypriot leaders because of Turkey's aggressive search for oil and gas.

We recently saw that the Turkish seismic vessel Barbaros entered Cyprus' EEZ. What frightened you the most about this particular action?
It is unacceptable to send frigates either to patrol or cross our waters, because it is considered a violation of our sovereign rights. It was fairly provoking to conduct research in our waters, and the Republic of Cyprus is pressured to accept an action considered illegal under international law.

And how do you intend to deal with this situation?
I have already made a decision. We cannot participate in any discussions under the threat of gunboats and continuous violations of our sovereignty. If I were to participate in any negotiations, it would only mean that I accept a new fait accompli.

Are you afraid of a military incident?
We hope that Turkey isn’t planning on provoking a military incident, and actually I don’t think a military engagement would even be possible for us. We are a small country and do not have any warships nor military aircraft in order to engage.

Watch the full interview with Anastasiades, subtitled in English, in the video above.

CONVERSATIONS