|The "European sovereign debt crisis (often referred to as the "Eurozone crisis) is an ongoing "financial crisis that has made it difficult or impossible for some countries in the "euro area to repay or "re-finance their "government debt without the assistance of third parties.
From late 2009, fears of a "sovereign debt crisis developed among investors as a result of the rising private and "government debt levels around the world together with a wave of downgrading of government debt in some "European states. Causes of the crisis varied by country. In several countries, private debts arising from a property "bubble were transferred to sovereign debt as a result of banking system "bailouts and government responses to slowing economies post-bubble. In Greece, unsustainable public sector wage and pension commitments drove the debt increase. The structure of the Eurozone as a "monetary union (i.e., one currency) without "fiscal union (e.g., different tax and public pension rules) contributed to the crisis and harmed the ability of European leaders to respond. European banks own a significant amount of sovereign debt, such that concerns regarding the solvency of banking systems or sovereigns are negatively reinforcing.
Concerns intensified in "early 2010 and thereafter, leading Europe's finance ministers on 9 May 2010 to approve the establishment of the "European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), being a temporary rescue fund aimed at ensuring financial stability for the eurozone, with a potential bailout capacity worth €750 billion (including the pledged 1/3 contribution by IMF). In October 2011 and February 2012, "eurozone leaders agreed on more measures designed to prevent the collapse of member economies, including an agreement whereby banks would accept a 53.5% write-off of "Greek debt owed to private "creditors, increasing the EFSF bailout capacity -being available until 1 July 2013- to about €1 trillion (with 1/3 of the amount pledged by IMF), signing a treaty to establish a permanent €500 billion fund named "ESM to replace the temporary EFSF fund when it expires, and requiring European banks to achieve 9% "capitalisation.
In the turmoil of the "Global Financial Crisis, the focus across all "EU member states has been gradually to implement "austerity measures, with the purpose of lowering the "budget deficits to levels below 3% of GDP, so that the debt level would either stay below -or start decline towards- the 60% limit defined by the "Stability and Growth Pact. In order to further restore the confidence in Europe, 23 out of 27 EU countries also agreed on adopting the "Euro Plus Pact, consisting of political reforms to improve fiscal strength and competitiveness; and 25 out of 27 EU countries also decided to implement the "Fiscal Compact which include the commitment of each participating country to introduce a "balanced budget amendment as part of their national law/constitution. The Fiscal Compact is a direct successor of the previous Stability and Growth Pact, but it is more strict, not only because criteria compliance will be secured through its integration into national law/constitution, but also because it starting from 2014 will require all ratifying countries not involved in ongoing bailout programmes, to comply with the new strict criteria of only having a "structural deficit of either maximum 0.5% or 1% (depending on the debt level). Each of the eurozone countries being involved in a bailout program (Greece, Portugal and Ireland) was asked both to follow a program with fiscal consolidation/austerity, and to restore competitiveness through implementation of structural reforms and "internal devaluation, i.e. lowering their relative "production costs. The measures implemented to restore competitiveness in the weakest countries are needed, not only to build the foundation for GDP growth, but also in order to decrease the current account imbalances among eurozone member states.
It has been a long known fact, that austerity measures will always reduce the GDP growth on the short term. The reason why Europe nevertheless chose the path of austerity measures, is because they on the medium and long term have been found to benefit and prosper GDP growth, as countries with healthy debt levels in return will be rewarded by the financial markets with higher confidence and lower interest rates. However, some economists believing in "Keynesian policies criticized the timing and amount of austerity measures being called for in the bailout programmes, as they argued such extensive measures should not be implemented during the crisis years with an ongoing recession, but if possible delayed until the years after some positive real GDP growth had returned. In October 2012, a report published by "International Monetary Fund (IMF) also found, that tax hikes and spending cuts during the most recent decade had indeed damaged the GDP growth more severely, compared to what had been expected and forecasted in advance (based on the "GDP damage ratios" previously recorded in earlier decades and under different economic scenarios). Already a half year earlier, several European countries had also, with the purpose of solving the problem with subdued GDP growth in the eurozone, called for the implementation of a new reinforced growth strategy based on additional public investments, to be financed by growth-friendly taxes on property, land, wealth, and financial institutions. In June 2012, EU leaders agreed as a first step to moderately increase the funds of the "European Investment Bank, in order to kick-start infrastructure projects and increase loans to the private sector. A few months later 11 out of 17 eurozone countries also agreed to introduce a new "EU financial transaction tax to be collected from 1 January 2014.
While sovereign debt has risen substantially in only a few eurozone countries, it has become a perceived problem for the area as a whole, leading to speculation of a possible breakup of the Eurozone. However, as of mid-November 2011, the "Euro was even trading slightly higher against the bloc's major trading partners than at the beginning of the crisis, before losing some ground in the following months and again rebounding thereafter. The three countries most severely affected by the debt crisis ("Greece, "Ireland and "Portugal), collectively also only accounts for 6% of the eurozone's "gross domestic product (GDP). During the second half of 2012, the so-called Troika ("European Commission, "ECB and "IMF) started to negotiate with Spain and Cyprus about setting up an economic recovery program in return of financial loans from "ESM. This situation is however not likely either to cause any increased pressure on the euro, because Cyprus is a very small economy, and Spain is not likely to need additional loan payments from ESM (beyond the loan they already received to conduct the needed bank recapitalisation).
Beside of all the political measures and bailout programmes being implemented to combat the European sovereign debt crisis, the "European Central Bank (ECB) has also done its part by lowering "interest rates and providing cheap loans of more than one trillion Euros to maintain money flows between European banks. On 6 September 2012, the ECB also calmed financial markets by announcing free unlimited support for all eurozone countries involved in a sovereign state bailout/precautionary programme from "EFSF/"ESM, through some yield lowering "Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT). The OMTs has been scheduled to be initiated at the point of time where the country posses/regain a complete market access, and last for as long as the country continue to suffer from stressed bond yields at excessive levels. The three countries currently receiving a sovereign bailout (Ireland, Portugal and Greece), are set to qualify for the OMT support the moment they regain complete market access, which will normally happen after having received the last scheduled bailout disbursement. Despite that none of the OMT programmes were ready to start in September/October, the financial markets straight away started to reward or price-in the measure, by introducing a declining trend for both short term and long term interest rates, in all the eurozone countries suffering from elevated interest rates.
The crisis did not only introduce adverse economic effects for the worst hit countries, but also had a major political impact on the ruling governments in 8 out of 17 eurozone countries, leading to power shifts in Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Slovenia, Slovakia, and the Netherlands.