News / Europe

Fears for European Banks as Greek Depositors Withdraw Money

Dominic Laurie
LONDON - The European Central Bank has asked financial institutions across Europe to stand behind their struggling counterparts in Greece, Spain and other countries caught in the euro debt crisis.  Banks have an incentive to support their rivals, but will Europe’s savers be as patient and keep their money where it is? 

Hundreds of Greek hotel workers are on strike in Athens. They are angry about plans that could cut their wages by up to 40 percent.  Hotel worker Koukos Panagiotis says that Greeks' everyday lives are already chaotic and that these cuts will completely destroy them. He pleads with people to remember that 70 percent of the workers in the tourism sector are working five months per year and have to support their families on that income for the rest of the year.

Greece is being kept afloat by international loans. In return, Greeks must endure harsh spending cuts and tax increases.  

If Greeks decide in their June election that austerity is not worth it, the country could be forced to leave the euro.  Savings would then be converted to the old currency, drachmas, very likely worth much less.  

So some Greeks have been taking their money out of banks, often putting it abroad. About a third of bank deposits have been withdrawn during the past two years.

Spain also faces a heavy debt burden. There have been noisy protests like in Greece, but here the withdrawal of savings has been less dramatic, less than five percent of deposits during the past year.  

But if the pace increases, the effect would be amplified because Spain’s banks are so much bigger than Greece’s. Only now, four years into the financial crisis, is Spain starting to come to terms with how weak its banks are. A bank called Bankia asked for a $23 billion bailout last week.

The Spanish prime minister tried to reassure the markets that everything is stable.  But Bankia’s share price has fallen sharply. Financial analyst Enrique Quemada says there is little trust in the banking system.

He says that people and investors do not believe Spain will be capable of fulfilling its deficit reduction promises because they have heard Spain say they would hit a budget deficit of six percent, then it was 8.5 percent and then it ended up being 8.9.

Chris Roebuck, from London’s Cass Business School, says that lack of trust means there could soon come a moment when bank customers in healthier eurozone countries move their funds elsewhere.

"If they see contagion spreading into panic in those countries, they will be asking themselves, 'Could this get to our country?'  They will ask themselves the question, 'What do I think the risk is?'  And if they think the risk of the whole house of cards coming down is high, they are potentially going to tip from a rational to an emotional response straight away,” said Roebuck.

Interest rates in the eurozone have hardly ever been lower.  The longer they stay that way, the more savers might decide the meager returns are not worth the risk, and take their money elsewhere.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs