One of the eurozone’s longest-serving finance minister’s Cypriot Harris Georgiades said on Friday he is standing down from his post at the end of the year after achieving what he set out to do.
Georgiades, 46, is credited with navigating Cyprus through a painful bailout process in 2013 when its banking system nearly collapsed and bringing the economy back to robust growth after several years of harsh austerity.
But his announcement to resign from his post comes in the wake of fierce criticism and calls for him to be sacked after a public inquiry said Georgiades was responsible for the demise of the Cyprus Cooperative Bank which collapsed last year.
In comments to reporters, Georgiades refuted any suggestion that his decision was tainted by the findings of the inquiry into the Co-op’s downfall.
"My departure from the Ministry of Finance was not accelerated due to this report. Probably the issue of the Co-op kept me here longer than I would have liked," said Georgiades.
Cyprus’ second-largest lender was bailed out by the state in 2013 as part of a bailout deal with international lenders, but more than half of its loans were toxic. The good assets of the bank were sold off to Cypriot bank Hellenic in a take-over deal.
“The Finance Minister bears the heaviest responsibilities for the failure of the Cooperative Credit Sector. We could say that (his responsibilities) are proportionally similar to those of the main shareholder in a private company, which failed due to their mismanagement,” said an 844-page report published last week.
Georgiades called the report "wrong and unfair" saying it had nothing to do with him leaving.
"I discussed with the President that I will continue until the end of the year. I consider that the completion of almost 7 years at the Ministry of Finance is enough for any person who has taken on a responsibility to help in difficult times," Georgiades said.
"No one serves us in such positions on a permanent basis. Along with my Maltese colleague, I am the longest serving Finance Minister in the eurozone.”
Georgiades is the second longest serving Finance Minister in Cyprus history, behind Andreas Patsalides who served for 11 years during the 1970s.
“I have achieved most of what I have defined as my own goals and what was set out as targets under the government's economic policy."
Georgiades was coy about his next steps but did not rule out remaining in politics.