The recent banking crisis in Cyprus was a critical turning point in the much larger ongoing Eurozone crisis. It was the first time in the Euro’s history where currency controls were enforced on a Eurozone member and the first time in the crisis that depositors were made to pay directly for their banks’ failure by losing a large chunk of their balance. Cypriot confidence has thus been severely dented and the future of the island nation within the Eurozone left in great uncertainty.
But Cyprus’s history is nothing if not dramatic and this latest episode is one that the Cypriot people have proven themselves well capable of overcoming. Inhabited since at least 10,000 BC the population of Cyprus has seen, and been both diminished and augmented by, invasions and power struggles involving the major forces in the Mediterranean for almost all of its history.
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The Egyptians, Mycenaeans, Phoenicians, Persians, Romans, Venetians, Ottomans, British and Turks have all fought over settled and occupied Cyprus, leading to one of the richest archaeological landscapes anywhere in the world. It’s easy to see why the island has been so prized: it’s a subtropical island with miles of beautiful coastline, sandy beaches and fertile agricultural land but which nevertheless is home to snow capped peaks in winter; it’s located at a strategically important part of the Mediterranean, near the Suez Canal; and it has recently discovered reserves of offshore natural gas.
Modern Cyprus is a popular destination for tourists as well as for expats looking for a primary or secondary home in the warm Mediterranean - to the point where non-Greeks and Turks make up about 5% of the population. With property prices falling in Cyprus since the recent economic problems, now could be time to snap up a bargain.