Spain, Italy and other European nations to be raided to save Euro

It is in their blood. Bankers are born believing they can risk people’s assets and then come back to ask for financial rescues to pay for the losses that weren’t even theirs.

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | MARCH 26, 2013

What are the real chances that the European Union applies the same medicine to other members nations in an effort to ‘save’ the Euro? According to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch chairman of the eurozone, more looting is possible in places like France, Italy and Spain, three of the most heavily burdened countries in the economic bloc.

Dijsselbloem said yesterday that the European technocratic organization would do what is necessary, that includes taking more money from depositors and investors in other countries, the keep the Euro afloat. The statement sent shocks and sounded alarms all over European markets.

The plan revealed by Mr. Dijsselbloem should not be a surprise for those who closely follow what’s going on in the old continent and almost everywhere in the world. The openness of many other countries to apply for the same kind of aid that Cyprus did this week will hold  shareholders, bondholders and even bank depositors hostage to the thirst of the European bankers who in in addition to causing the debt crisis are now demanding that the poorest in the continent pay for the losses of their gambling.

Given the uproar caused by his words, Dijsselbloem’s communication department quickly tried to soften them, but the stone had been already thrown. Now that people all over Europe and the world know of the bankers’ plans, it is likely they will proceed with caution. It is even possible that they delay further raids in other countries in order to calm the markets and the insecurity created by the statement issued on the same say when most details about the so-called Cypriot bailout was completed.

Dijsselbloem has revived fears that awoke while the Eurogroup endorsed and then rectified the confiscation of deposits in accounts with 100,000 euros or more by imposing a new tax. This measure is the first in the history of the European Union.

Banking professor Juan Ignacio Sanz Esade of Spain says it is possible that something similar might happen in Spain in the “medium or long term”. He emphasizes that “there is a great suspicion when trying to recognize our own responsibilities.” For Sanz, Spain’s Bankia is one of the first candidates to suffer the same fate as Litzki and Bank of Cyprus. “Bankia is likely to continue falling if the market remains in this situation” and states that “no banking unit will be strong in Europe until all banks are cleaned up.”

The European currency fell after Jeroen Dijsselbloem, announced that example of Cyprus can be the model for future takeovers anywhere in Europe. “If there is a risk in a bank, our first question should be ‘Okay, what are you in the bank going to do about that? What can you do to recapitalise yourself?’,” he said. “If the bank can’t do it, then we’ll talk to the shareholders and the bondholders, we’ll ask them to contribute in recapitalising the bank, and if necessary the uninsured deposit holders.”

The problem with this is that the bankers are only partners in crime with the largest banking institutions in the continent, so the public would do a disservice to themselves by believing that their local banks have their best interests in mind. Cyprus is a clear example of that. Neither can depositors or investors trust their politicians, because as it has been seen in Cyprus, they are easy pray for technocrats who use baseless threats to inflict fear on them.

It is important to remember that with the banking takeover in Cyprus two things became apparent. First, no one’s savings or investments are safe in any bank, and second, previous policies that protected savers’ funds according to the amount they had in their accounts have also been ditched. Now, according to Mr. Dijsselbloem, all accounts are fair game. It is expected that private investors and depositors be hit to pay for bad banking debts.

The looting of Cyprus by the EU will follow the Greek model

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | MARCH 24, 2013

The Government has reached an agreement with the troika to seize 20% of the deposits that hold more than 100,000 euros that are in the Bank of Cyprus, the country’s largest bank and also the one that is preferred by Russian oligarchs. “How do you think it will be? Tomorrow I will lose 25,000 euros,” replied the waiter in a bar where a customer shouted how are you?

This measure, which still must be approved by Parliament, joins the two taken on Friday: The Laiki settlement, the second largest and the one with the biggest problem when it comes to capital controls. His liquidation was negotiated as necessary to prevent panic next Tuesday, when Cypriot banks reopen. The restructuring of a bank that has been both the growth engine of the island and the head of its economic sinking is completed at a discount of 4% for all other banks.

Cyprus has had to swallow his pride showed on Tuesday when MPs overwhelmingly rejected the bailout custom designed by Germany, which required the smallest euro economy to steal 5,800 million euros from its savers.

The Plan B hastily designed by political forces will not be so different from Plan A: depositors will have to pay to avoid the bankruptcy of the country, and perhaps in addition leave the euro. But now, those who will take the deepest haircut are those who have 100,000 euros, an  amount theoretically untouchable according to European standards, an idea that has faltered this week. Of the nearly 68,000 million euros euros in Cypriot bank accounts, 38,000 banks exceed this amount.

If leaders want to avoid bankruptcy, they do not have much time, according to European leaders. For the plan of salvation to succeed, Parliament in Cyprus will need to vote in favor of it after Cypriot leaders and finance ministers of the euro zone met on Sunday.

The European Central Bank has warned that if no agreement is reached by Tuesday, the Union will close the tap of liquidity to institutions of the island, which would mean the collapse of the banking system within hours. The domino effect in the government accounts would be very fast. This scenario was seen in Iceland, where the government refused to pay the debt created by the same banks who are now feeding on Cyprus. In Iceland, the government and the people stood up against banker bullying and kicked the bankers out.

A parliamentary source quoted by the Greek daily Kathimerini noted that the Cypriot deputies could wait for the Eurogroup meeting to conclude to vote the final agreement. It would be only after this vote that Cyprus would step away from the abyss that has approached this week. That does not mean the country is safe or that things will improve rapidly.

One only needs to take a look at Greece, where the bankers took over the country and its people are still suffering the pain of closing deals with the bankers. Cyprus will also pay a very high cost for the financial rescue: the collapse of confidence in its banking system and a black economic outlook, with a sharp drop in GDP and a rise in unemployment, according to several analysts, will make things even worse than in Greece.

If savers at Bank of Cyprus have suffered a severe punishment, Laiki’s have suffered even more. At midnight on Friday and Saturday, Parliament gave its approval to split the bank, converting it into an entity that takes control of more modest and healthy deposits and loans, while also bearing responsibility for the bad and large toxic assets.

Those who have money in Laiki will not recover it in the next few years, and when they do, it will be an amount much lower than they had.

This is what is feared by hundreds of employees at Laiki, who have been demonstrating against the plans of the Eurogroup. European governments have made it clear that one of the conditions of the bailout of Cyprus is that country reduces the size of its financial sector, especially the part that attracts large amounts of money at high interest rates.

Besides restructuring Laiki, lawmakers approved the creation of a ‘solidarity fund’ which will feature contributions from private citizens and businesses, as well as state assets and the Orthodox Church. The money contained in this fund will be directly managed, not to say stolen, by the European government, which has also said that pension funds will not be touched right now, but that refused to say what will happen with people’s retirement funds in the near future.

Spain Officially under Brussels Rule

By requesting a financial bailout of its banking system and accepting all measures recommended by Brussels, Spain has effectively walked into the wolf’s den.

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | JUNE 26, 2012

The reaction to Spain’s decision to accept a financial bailout for its banking system had immediate reactions everywhere in that country and abroad. First, the decision to request over $100 billion dollars to Brussels to rescue what the country’s Prime Minister says is 30 percent of the banks caused the collapse of the stock market. Second, by the mid afternoon, the adoption of new rules from the European bankers caused Moody’s to downgrade 28 Spanish banks and left Spain’s credit rating just above junk status. Third, The European Union will, as it did with other countries that were rescued, assumed complete power of the budgetary policy of the Spanish government.

On Thursday, European finance ministers will meet to discuss the details of the latest European rescue which implies that Spain will have to adopt every single recommendations originated in Brussels. Any violation to such rules will consequently bring harsh penalties against the peninsular nation. Another issue that will be discussed on Thursday and Friday will be the guidelines that the European government will give each nation that requested a bailout in regards to the supervision that the euro zone leaders will exercise over the banking system and the amount that each government will spend, how and when they will spend it.

Now that Spain is in the bag, European leaders like Herman Van Rompuy, Jose Manuel Barroso, Jean-Claude Juncker and Mario Draghi are proposing to establish a system where there is complete centralized control over the financial sector in each of the countries which will include the economic and budgetary matters. In Spain, economists and TV commentators are already analysing the implications of such a decision, since Spain has no longer anything to say about what is done with its finances. The Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said on national television that new and more difficult measures are still to come. Those measures include a 10 percent increase in the sales taxes, which will reach 18 percent. This increase is surely to affect the prices and food and other basic needs.

After the increase in the sales tax or IVA, Spain will have to ‘reform’ its pension system, which will mean that Brussels will also take control over the retirement of millions of Spanish people. Those who have contributed into the retirement system, will have to retire later and take a significant haircut to their benefits once they decide to stop working. That is if they receive any retirement benefits at all. Additionally, the government will also propose a cut in the salaries it pays to workers in the public sector and a considerable reduction in the number of people it will employ once Brussels recommendations are effective.

Although the details of Spain’s bailout are not fully disclosed to the public or the media, leaks provided to some economists in that country detail that the country will have to take care of the bankers’ debt for at least the next quarter of a century while paying an interest rate of between 3 and 5 percent. Spain’s incapacity to meet its obligations was the caused cited by Moody’s for its most recent downgrade, Meanwhile, and as a consequence of such downgrade, Spain will have to continue paying higher interest rates at bond auctions. This situation would get even worse of Spain needed another financial bailout in the near future.

French junior budget minister Jerome Cahuzac, one of the people who meets today with the rest of his European colleagues to work out the details of Brussels meeting on Thursday, has said that it is only fair that Spain also submits its sovereignty just as his own country and many others in the euro zone have done it as a condition to receive so-called rescue packages. “This is what we are talking about, budget solidarity in Europe which implies that not only that the French budget, but also the German, Italian and Spanish budgets be subjected to a review by all our partners,” Cahuzac said.

As we reported yesterday, Spain is now finalizing a memorandum of understanding which will be presented before the Eurogroup on July 9, where the final decisions will be made by the 17 finance ministers who work on behalf of the European bankers. The Spanish economy minister explained that the money loaned to Spain will be managed through the Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring (FROB), which is supposed to be a state-backed cashier, but that in reality is a banker-controlled window that dictates where will the funds recently requested by Spain will be directed.

As it has happened throughout Europe, most of the measures adopted by governments to supposedly deal with the economic crisis have only tightened the belt of the working class, the people who always take on the heaviest burden when banks decide to collapse a country’s financial and economic system. In the case of Spain, as we have said, the financial rescue of its banks means prices going through the roof, later retirement, less or no retirement benefits, a reduction in the purchasing power for the middle and lower classes and a perpetual state of indebtedness for the next 2 or 3 generations of Spanish people, who will have to work all of their lives to pay the debt incurred into by the Spanish banking system.

European Union Discusses Limiting People’s Access to their Money

IRISH TIMES | JUNE 12, 2012

European finance officials have discussed limiting the size of withdrawals from ATM machines, imposing border checks and introducing euro zone capital controls as a worst-case scenario should Athens decide to leave the euro.

EU officials said the ideas are part of a range of contingency plans. They emphasised that the discussions were merely about being prepared for any eventuality rather than planning for something they expect to happen.

But with increased political uncertainty in Greece following the inconclusive election on May 6th and ahead of a second election on June 17th, there is now an increased need to have contingencies in place, the EU sources said.

The European Commission said today it was helping with legal advice in discussions of contingency scenarios regarding Greece by the Eurogroup working group.

“I’ve not said that I’m not aware of any discussions, I’ve said I’m not aware about any plans, which is a slight difference,” Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly told a regular news briefing, when asked about Commission involvement in discussions about the contingencies were Greece to leave the euro.

“What I said also is that some people are working on scenarios. We are providing information about EU law, as the guardian of the treaty,” he said.

The discussions have taken place in conference calls over the past six weeks, as concerns have grown that a radical-left coalition, Syriza, may win the second election, increasing the risk that Greece could renege on its EU-IMF bailout and therefore move closer to abandoning the currency.

No decisions have been taken on the calls, but members of the Eurogroup working group, which consists of euro zone deputy finance ministers and heads of treasury departments, have discussed the options in some detail, the sources said.

Belgium’s finance minister, Steve Vanackere, said at the end of May that it was a function of each euro zone state to be prepared for problems. These discussions have been in that vein, with the specific aim of limiting a bank run or capital flight.

As well as limiting cash withdrawals and imposing capital controls, they have discussed the possibility of suspending the Schengen agreement, which allows for visa-free travel among 26 countries, including most of the European Union.

“Contingency planning is underway for a scenario under which Greece leaves,” one of the sources, who has beeninvolved in the conference calls, said. “Limited cash withdrawals from ATMs and limited movement of capital have been considered and analysed.”

Another source confirmed the discussions, including that the suspension of Schengen was among the options raised.

“These are not political discussions, these are discussions among finance experts who need to be prepared for any eventuality,” the second source said. “It is sensible planning, that is all, planning for the worst-case scenario.”

The first official said it was still being examined whether there was a legal basis for such extreme measures.

“The Bank of Greece is not aware of any such plans,” a central bank spokesman in Athens said when asked about the sources’ comments.

The vast majority of Greeks – some surveys have indicated 75 to 80 per cent – like the euro and want to retain the currency, something Greek politicians are aware of and which may dissuade them from pushing the country too close to the brink.

However, Syriza is expected to win or come a strong second on June 17th. Alexis Tsipras, the party’s 37-year-old leader, has said he plans to tear up or heavily renegotiate the €130 billion bailout agreed with the European Union and International Monetary Fund. The EU and IMF have said they are not prepared to renegotiate.

If those differences cannot be resolved, the threat of the country leaving or being forced out of the euro will remain, and hence the need for contingencies to be in place.

Switzerland said last month it was considering introducing capital controls if the euro falls apart.

In a conference call on May 21st, the Eurogroup Working Group told euro zone member states that they should each have a plan in place if Greece were to leave the currency.

Belgium’s Mr Vanackere said two days after that call that it was a basic function of each euro zone member state to be prepared for any eventuality.

“All the contingency plans (for Greece) come back to the same thing: to be responsible as a government is to foresee even what you hope to avoid,” he told reporters.

“We must insist on efforts to avoid an exit scenario but that doesn’t mean we are not preparing for eventualities.”

Spain to receive up to 125 Billion Euros in Bailout

REUTERS | JUNE 10, 2012

Euro zone finance ministers agreed on Saturday to lend Spain up to 100 billion euros ($125 billion) to shore up its teetering banks and Madrid said it would specify precisely how much it needs once independent audits report in just over a week.

After a 2 1/2-hour conference call of the 17 finance ministers, which several sources described as heated, the Eurogroup and Madrid said the amount of the bailout would be sufficiently large to banish any doubts.

“The loan amount must cover estimated capital requirements with an additional safety margin, estimated as summing up to 100 billion euros in total,” a Eurogroup statement said.

Spain said it wanted aid for its banks but would not specify the precise amount until two independent consultancies – Oliver Wyman and Roland Berger – deliver their assessment of the banking sector’s capital needs some time before June 21.

“The Spanish government declares its intention to request European financing for the recapitalization of the Spanish banks that need it,” Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said at a news conference in Madrid.

He said the amounts needed would be manageable and that the funds requested would amply cover any needs.

A bailout for Spain’s banks, beset by bad debts since a property bubble burst, would make it the fourth country to seek assistance since Europe’s debt crisis began.

With the rescue of Greece, Ireland, Portugal and now Spain, the EU and IMF have now committed around 500 billion euros to finance European bailouts.

Washington, which is worried the euro zone crisis could drag the U.S. economy down in an election year, welcomed the announcement.

“These are important for the health of Spain’s economy and as concrete steps on the path to financial union, which is vital to the resilience of the euro area,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said.

Likewise, the Group of Seven developed nations – the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Japan and Canada – heralded the move as a milestone as the euro zone moves toward tighter financial and budgetary ties.

Read Full Article →