The dramatic recent events in Cyprus have highlighted the fundamental weakness in the European banking system and the extreme fragility of fractional reserve banking. Cypriot banks invested heavily in Greek sovereign debt, and last summer’s Greek debt restructuring resulted in losses equivalent to more than 25 percent of Cyprus’ GDP. These banks then took their bad investments to the government, demanding a bailout from an already beleaguered Cypriot treasury. The government of Cyprus then turned to the European Union (EU) for a bailout.
The terms insisted upon by the troika (European Commission, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund) before funding the bailout were nothing short of highway robbery. While bank depositors have traditionally been protected in the event of bankruptcy or liquidation, the troika insisted that all bank depositors pay a tax of between 6.75 and 10 percent of their total deposits to help fund the bailout.
While one can sympathize with EU taxpayers not wanting to fund yet another bailout of a poorly-managed banking system, forcing the Cypriot people to pay for the foolish risks taken by their government and bankers is also criminal. In their desire to punish a “tax haven” catering supposedly to Russian oligarchs, the EU elites ensured that ordinary citizens would suffer just as much as foreign depositors. Imagine the reaction if in September 2008, the US government had financed its $700 billion bank bailout by directly looting American taxpayers’ bank accounts!