BBC World Service

European banks continue to fear extra withdrawals

Marketplace Contributor May 21, 2012

David Brancaccio: First Greece, now Spain. Europeans are withdrawing extra money from their bank accounts in case the continent’s financial crisis deepens and the single currency system falls apart. The Financial Times today has an opinion piece labeling it a bank run — “slow and prolonged,” but a bank run. Others say this designation is inaccurate and alarmist.

Joining us from Berlin is the BBC ‘s Steve Evans. Good morning Steve.

Steve Evans: Good morning to you.

Brancaccio: Steve, what tools does the eurozone have to mitigate any possible banking crisis that could be emerging here?

Evans: It has lots of tools, the question is whether it chooses to use them. I mean what the ECB, the European equivalent of the Fed, could do would be to guarantee the bank deposits of the central bank of Greece for example. But Germany is against any collective underwriting of the debt of the individual banks. Largely Germany fears the amount to which its tax payers would be vulnerable.

Brancaccio: What about at the level of the individual depositor? In the United States, the government forces the bank system to provide deposit insurance – does Europe have that?

Evans: Different bits of Europe do, but the individual banking regulations within different countries do vary. At the moment, we don’t quite have a run on the banks in Greece. We have a slow run, and its been called a “bank jog.” People are going to ATMs and taking out a little bit more of their money. And companies are, it seems, taking their funds out of Euros each night and then putting them back in for business each morning. And the danger with that kind of thing is the moment people think a bank run is on the way, that jog becomes a gallop.

Brancaccio: Indeed. The BBC’s Steve Evan in Berlin, thank you very much.

Evans: You’re very welcome.

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