Bank structural reform is the result of a global financial crisis which developed in the summer of 2007 and became obvious in the EU in the latter part of 2008. The EU Member States that share an economic and monetary union began to appear particularly vulnerable: the Greek sovereign debt crisis became apparent in early 2010 and serious economic problems emerged in Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Spain. Fearing possible defaults, markets began demanding substantially higher interest rates for the bonds of these Member States with Spanish 10-year yields topping 7.5 per cent in the summer of 2012.

A negative feedback loop between banks and their sovereigns began to be seen as the principal cause of the crisis: as banks are the major purchaser of sovereign debt, banking problems can jeopardise the fiscal position and sovereign debt problems can put banks at risk. As a result of this inter-connection, governments intervened to provide State aid to banks that were at risk of failing in an attempt to restore confidence in the financial sector and avoid a systemic crisis. Between 1 October 2008 and 1 October 2013 the European Commission took more than 400 decisions authorising State aid measures to the financial sector. Between 2008 and 2012, the overall volume of aid used for capital support (recapitalisation and asset relief measures) amounted to €591.9 billion. The guarantees and other forms of liquidity supports reached their peak in 2009 with an outstanding amount of €906 billion.

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Originally published 27 August 2015

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