Blog Post

Capital controls in Cyprus: the end of Target2?

After the decision of last Saturday, an even bigger mistake is under way. Cypriot lawmakers have on March 22 almost unnoticed passed a restriction bill that allows the introduction of capital control.

By: Date: October 14, 2013

After the decision of last Saturday, an even bigger mistake is under way. Cypriot lawmakers have on March 22 almost unnoticed passed a restriction bill that allows the introduction of capital controls. This step was supported by the ECB and the European institutions to avoid uncontrolled capital outflows that could threaten financial stability in Cyprus. The bill prevents simple transfers of deposits from Cyprus to other countries in the Eurozone without an approval by authorities, with the ECB playing a role in the approval process. It effectively means that a euro anywhere is not a euro everywhere. This is the single most important mistake made in the Cyprus crisis. Here is why:

The most important characteristic of a monetary union is the ability to move money without any restrictions from any bank to any other bank in the entire currency area. If this is restricted, the value of a euro in a Cypriot bank becomes significantly inferior to the value of a euro in any other bank in the euro area. Effectively, it means that a Cypriot euro is not a euro anymore. By agreeing to this measure, the ECB has de-facto introduced a new currency in Cyprus.

It is, of course, clear that at the day of opening of Cypriot banks, all depositors will want to withdraw their deposits and ship them to other countries in the euro area. This is their right and one should not stop them from doing so (except for the tax that seems unavoidable). As a consequence, Cypriot banks will be left without funding from deposits. For such a situation, the Eurosystem has clearly established rules. In fact, the Eurosystem is required to provide liquidity to any bank deemed solvent by its supervisor against collateral. By agreeing to capital controls, the Eurosystem is avoiding taking its responsibility as a liquidity provider of last resort to the banking system. In addition, Europe is breaching the Treaty which prohibits capital controls inside the monetary union.

What should be done instead? The eurosystem should provide liquidity to replace all outflowing deposits as long as collateral is available. Collateral standards would certainly have to be lowered significantly as otherwise collateral standards would limit the amount of liquidity that could be provided, a point I made almost 2 years ago in this letter to FT (Lack of collateral will stop euro flows). At the same time, the Eurogroup should agree to an ESM programme similar to the one in Spain with very intrusive European Commission powers in bank restructuring. De facto, the European institutions should take control of those banks in Cyprus that run out of eligible collateral. They should then do gradual bank resolution by selling assets of banks at an appropriate speed. Alternatively, if the value of assets is high, then the bank could also be sold to new investors. This will mean putting up more resources upfront but it may be not a big loss in the end as Cypriot bank assets cannot evaporate over night. If the ESM is effectively in control, it will improve confidence of the Eurosystem and allow for the type of liquidity provisions that will be necessary. Eventually, it will ensure that even in case of a collapse of the Cypriot financial system, the ESM would ensure the proper functioning of the payment system and essential banking services.

Taxing depositors should not be seen as the main mistake of this crisis provided those below the 100K are protected. In fact, it must be possible to get a financial contribution of depositors of oversized and insolvent banks – even though this contribution should ideally be received in an orderly bank restructuring process. But by introducing capital controls, the eurozone has embarked on a process severely endangering the currency area and the single market. A euro in Cyprus now has a different value than a euro in Frankfurt. De facto, the ECB has showed that it is ready to contemplate implicit limits to the Target2 balances. It is not too late to correct this mistake.


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint. Anyone is free to republish and/or quote this post without prior consent. Please provide a full reference, clearly stating Bruegel and the relevant author as the source, and include a prominent hyperlink to the original post.

Topics

Comments

Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Jérémie Cohen-Setton

The history of the macroeconomic divide

What’s at stake: Following up on his mathiness critique that economic theory is becoming a sloppy mixture of words and symbols, Paul Romer wrote a series of blog posts over the past few weeks discussing how things went so far off in the macroeconomic field, where a group (often referred as fresh-water economists) completely retreated from scientific engagement with macroeconomists who disagreed with them and gave up on using evidence to evaluate models.

By: Jérémie Cohen-Setton Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: August 24, 2015
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Silvia Merler

Greece budget update - August

The Greek finance ministry published last week the latest budget execution bulletin. The state budget primary balance increased significantly during July. Greece recorded a primary surplus of 1.6 billion euros in July, which takes the cumulated primary surplus for the first six months of the year at 3.5 billion euros, against a primary surplus target of 2.99 billion euros. This is the highest monthly value for the primary surplus since August 2014.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: August 17, 2015
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Guntram B. Wolff

Greece: Lessons for Europe

It was inevitable that Greece would have to make cuts. Yet, if it is ever to pay back its debts, what the country needs most of all is a growth strategy.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: August 13, 2015
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Grégory Claeys

Los trémulos cimientos del 'plan Juncker'

Los detalles del plan alimentan el escepticismo

By: Grégory Claeys Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: August 7, 2015
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Ashoka Mody

Wolfgang Schäuble, Debt Relief, and the Future of the Eurozone

The German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has had enough. Greece, he says, cannot receive debt relief from European creditors because European official creditors are forbidden by European treaties to grant relief. But this cannot be true. Once a loan has been made, any lender exposes himself to a default risk.

By: Ashoka Mody Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: August 6, 2015
Read article More on this topic

Opinion

Guntram B. Wolff

Greece’s debt burden can and must be lightened within the Euro

The current link between debt servicing and membership of the single currency leads to a vicious circle that increases uncertainty, weakens growth and makes full debt repayment less likely. There will be no confidence and no growth in Greece without a solution to the debt problem.

By: Armin von Bogdandy, Marcel Fratzscher and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: August 5, 2015
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Silvia Merler

Now you see it, now you don’t

The first Italian case of bail-in.

By: Silvia Merler Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: August 3, 2015
Read article Download PDF More on this topic More by this author

Policy Contribution

Reform momentum and its impact on Greek growth

Reform momentum and its impact on Greek growth

The time is ripe to analyse in fine detail the conditions attached to the Greek programmes and to look in particular at the degree of structural reform implementation under the first and second programmes, the speed at which implementation took place, and the headings under which reforms were enacted, especially compared to the other euro-area programme countries.

By: Alessio Terzi Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 29, 2015
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Video

Video

Competitive gains in the Economic and Monetary Union

This event was organised in the frame of the 10th Anniversary of Bruegel. It brought together a panel of high level economic experts to discuss the competitive gains achievable through reinforcing the Internal Market and structural reforms.

By: Bruegel Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 22, 2015
Read article More on this topic

Opinion

Guntram B. Wolff

Griechenlands Schuldenlast kann und muss im Euroraum erleichtert werden

Die Verknüpfung von Schuldendienst mit der Mitgliedschaft in der Währungsunion führt zu einem Teufelskreis, der das Wachstum schwächt und damit eine Rückzahlung der Schulden unwahrscheinlicher macht. Wir schlagen vor, den Teufelskreis durch eine Bindung der Kreditzinsen an das Wachstum der griechischen Wirtschaft zu durchbrechen. Ein Griechenland ohne Wachstum soll keine Zinsen und keine Tilgung zahlen. Je stärker das Wachstum, desto höher die Zinsen und Rückzahlungen an die europäischen Gläubiger. 

By: Armin von Bogdandy, Marcel Fratzscher and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 22, 2015
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Jérémie Cohen-Setton

Understanding the Neo-Fisherite rebellion

The idea that low interest rates are deflationary – that we’ve had the sign on monetary policy wrong! – started as a fringe theory on the corners of the blogosphere 3 years ago. Michael Woodford has now confirmed that modern theory, indeed, implies the Neo-Fisherian view when people’s expectations are infinitely rational.

By: Jérémie Cohen-Setton Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 19, 2015
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Marek Dabrowski

Five Lessons on Greece

A reflection on the experience of Greece and other countries who have implemented rescue programs

By: Marek Dabrowski Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: July 16, 2015
Load more posts