In 2010 the Greek state lost the capacity to service its debt. Put simply, it became insolvent and, thus, lost access to capital markets.
To prevent a default on fragile French and German banks, that had irresponsibly lent billions to irresponsible Greek governments, Europe decided to grant Greece the largest loan in world history on condition of the largest ever magnitude of fiscal consolidation (also known as austerity) which, naturally, resulted in a world record loss of national income – the greatest since the Great Depression. And so began a vicious cycle of austerity-driven debt-deflation, spearheading a humanitarian crisis and a complete inability to repay the nation’s debts.
In politics, whoever can better influence the international media to push forward their views has the upper hand, say political communications insiders. And this isn’t just the case during election campaigns: in the European Union, decision-making power depends not only on the size of a given player’s economy, but also on how it deals with international media.
In the morning hours of March 16,2013 the Eurogroup issued its infamous statement which could precipitate the dissolution of the eurozone and perhaps of the EU. It starts with words of welcome. ”The Eurogroup welcomes the political agreement reached with the Cypriot authorities on the cornerstones of the policy conditionality underlying a future macroeconomic adjustment programme…………” It continues wth difficult to understand words with double meaning until it gives the coup de grace. ”These measures include the introduction of an upfront one-off stability levy applicable to resident and non-resident depositors……” With this sentence the Eurogroup put an end to economic stability in the EU since for the first time in its history, the EU steals money belonging to bank depositors, under the guise of a so-called stability levy. A tax would be imposed on accounts under 100.000 euros and a heavier tax for accounts over 100.000.
Two days later, Cypriot Parliament voted against this decision. Not one member of Parliament voted in favour. The banks closed for more than a week, as depositors were able to get some money from ATM machines. The population, rightfully angry, demonstrated and protested against state robbery, while one angry depositor tried to break in his bank with a tractor. The President of the Eurogroup, simply took note of the decision of the Parliament while Merkel said that she would respect the decision. The decision of Parliament gave courage to the people of Greece, which were quite disappointed with the docile position taken by its Parliament which adopted with a great ease, measures that were even violating the Greek Constitution. (more…)
Irrespective of the fate of Cyprus, the solution adopted will exacerbate the European debt crisis.
Many commentators note that the deposit grab may cause panic among bank depositors in Spain and other vulnerable countries as well. Indeed, many are asking whether this could be a modern Creditanstalt situation. Another common analogy is that this could be “worse than Lehman” failing.
On the other hand – given that the entire economy of Cyprus is smaller than that of Shreveport, Louisiana, and that Cyprus is mainly a parking spot for hot money from Russian oligarchs and mafia – some say that the whole crisis will quickly blow over.
What’s the bigger picture? Bank deposit grabs may spread to other vulnerable European countries. The New York Times reports:
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the president of the group of euro area ministers, declined early Saturday to rule out taxes on depositors in countries beyond Cyprus.
And the chief economist of the German Commerzbank has called for private savings accounts in Italyto be similarly plundered:
A tax rate of 15 percent on financial assets would probably be enough to push the Italian government debt to below the critical level of 100 percent of gross domestic product.