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Hazardous tango: sovereign-bank interdependence and financial stability in the euro area

The strong interdependence between banking and sovereign crisis has emerged as a salient feature of euro area crisis. This interdependence, for sure, is not a specific feature of the euro area. But as pointed out by several authors the vicious cycle seems to be extremely strong in the euro area. The reason why euro area […]

By: and Date: April 15, 2012 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

The strong interdependence between banking and sovereign crisis has emerged as a salient feature of euro area crisis. This interdependence, for sure, is not a specific feature of the euro area. But as pointed out by several authors the vicious cycle seems to be extremely strong in the euro area.

The reason why euro area banks and sovereigns seem to be indissolubly tied together is twofold. On one hand, in the absence of a supranational banking resolution framework, member states keep individual responsibility for the rescue of their national banking system. Given the size of the banking systems across the euro area, this implies that the fiscal consequences of rescuing banks are potentially very large and explains how stress in the banking system can spill over to sovereigns.

On the other hand, domestic banks hold on their balance sheets a considerable share of the debt issued by their domestic government. Any doubt about sovereign solvency immediately therefore affects domestic banks. This two-way bank-sovereign interdependence constitutes one of the specifi c features of the euro area that renders it especially fragile.

In spite of this demonstrated weakness there has been surprisingly little policy action to remedy this state of affairs. Proposals for giving the European Union or the euro area responsibility for rescuing banks, or at least backstopping national authorities, have been consistently rejected.

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