LONDON – Cyprus’ bailout deal is the fifth agreed on so far in the 17-strong group of European Union countries that use the euro since the debt crisis began in late 2009.
Here’s a look at the rescue programs:
GREECE — Greece has received two bailout packages from its eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund. Its problems began in late 2009, when the government admitted that public debt was far higher than official statistics showed. That led it to accept a bailout package of 110 billion euros (worth $142 billion today) in May 2010. When it became clear that bailout was not enough — because the economy kept weakening — a second bailout was clinched in February 2012 for another 130 billion euros. That included a writedown on the value of Greek government bonds to lighten Athens’ debt burden.
IRELAND — Ireland’s banks suffered from their exposure to the U.S. mortgage market meltdown as well as to a collapse in the local housing sector. The government stepped in to guarantee creditors and deposits, but the move cost it dearly. As it rescued its banks, the costs grew and soon the government’s borrowing rates on bond markets rose so high it was unable to finance itself independently. It secured a 67.5 billion euro package in November 2010.
PORTUGAL — After Ireland’s rescue, investors turned their eyes to the next weakest country in the currency bloc. Portugal’s economy was weak and public finances shaky. The government’s borrowing rates in bond markets kept rising on fears it finances would prove unsustainable. By April 2011 talks on a bailout began. In May 2011, the country agreed to a package of 78 billion euros in rescue loans.
SPANISH BANKS — Spain was considered the next weakest link, which fueled fear among European investors because the country’s economy is much larger than those of Greece, Ireland or Portugal. Giving it rescue loans would severely test the eurozone’s financial capabilities. The main concern was that Spanish banks, which took huge losses on a collapsed real estate market, would force the Spanish government into rescue efforts it could not afford. The Spanish government agreed a deal in July 2012 with eurozone officials to get up to 100 billion euros in rescue loans directly for the banks. For a few weeks it seemed the Spanish government would also need rescue loans, but its borrowing rates in bond markets fell back down after the European Central Bank vowed to do “whatever it takes” to save the euro. It created a new program to buy a country’s bonds if needed, drastically boosting confidence in the eurozone states’ public finances.
CYPRUS — The ECB’s move calmed markets in Europe for months, but Cyprus’ financial problems continued to fester. The country’s banks had taken huge losses from Greece’s debt writedown and the government also needed saving after it was overwhelmed by the cost of supporting its banks. Cyprus first formally asked for a eurozone and IMF rescue package in June 2012. The talks continued for months as Cyprus negotiated for a better deal, possibly involving Russia. The issue came to a head in March, when Cyprus agreed to confiscate a part of deposits in exchange for 10 billion euros ($13 billion) in rescue loans. That was rejected by the Cypriot parliament and after days of more negotiations a new deal was crafted. Analysts estimate as much as 40 per cent of deposits above the insured limit of 100,000 euros would be seized at the country’s two largest and most troubled banks. Along with other, smaller measures, that would raise the money needed to qualify for the rescue loans.