Cyprus has become the fifth euro zone nation to seek a bailout from the European Union and IMF
as the debt crisis in the single currency bloc loomed to escalate ahead of a crucial EU summit at the weekend.
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the euro group, last night said that he received a formal request for financial assistance from the Mediterranean island nation just days before it takes over the half-year presidency of the European Council of Ministers.
Te euro group will swiftly examine the request and convey its response to the Cypriot authorities, Juncker said.
The euro group is also expected to give a mandate to the European Commission and to the European Central Bank (ECB) "to negotiate the necessary policy conditionality, which shall accompany the financial assistance," he said in a statement.
This will include measures that will address the main challenges of Cyprus economy, primarily those of the financial sector.
Juncker said he expected that Cyprus will "engage with strong determination in the required policy actions."
Cyprus was widely expected to seek a bailout by the EU and the IMF to prop up its banking sector, crippled by its heavy exposure to the Greek government debts and by the losses on loans given to Greek banks and businesses.
According to some estimates, Cyprus might need between 5 billion euros and 10 billion euros to recapitalise its banks.
The final push for a bailout came from the rating agency Fitch, which yesterday joined its rivals Moody's and Standard & Poor's to downgrade Cyprus' credit rating to junk status, making it more difficult for the country to raise funds from the capital markets.
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