Eurozone bailout programme finally ends
Final payment to prop-up countries following the financial crisis made to Greece on Monday
Today marks an important milestone for the eurozone as the Greek bailout finally comes to an end, the last country to receive emergency loans in the wake of Europe's financial crisis.
Greece will exit its third bailout programme today having borrowed more than €288 billion, the biggest bailout in global financial history, over eight years.
Now, the country’s creditors believe Greece is able to stand on its own two feet.
Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus all received huge loans in the years following the crash, and “at the most intense points of the crisis there were genuine doubts about whether the eurozone would survive, or at the very least whether some countries would drop out”, says the BBC.
While the root of the crises varied from country to country, from a construction and property crash to weak economic growth that undermined tax revenue, there were similarities in the consequences, in particular a poisonous interaction between stressed government finances and stressed banks.
Ten years on from the crash and eight years since Greece first received a bailout, governments across Europe have been forced to implement a programme of spending cuts and tax rises that have had a severe impact on public services and living standards.
Some have argued that far from saving the troubled eurozone economies, the bailout and harsh steps to reduce government borrowing which accompanied them aggravated economic problems, and will continue to be felt for decades to come.
Many countries fell into recession, with Greece’s economy falling 28% while unemployment rose to 28%, and 50% among young people at its peak.
In Greece, Reuters reports the country’s international bailouts “took aim at its pension system and more than a dozen rounds of cuts pushed nearly half its elderly below the poverty line”.
Monday’s exit “is a welcome milestone” says CTV News, “but it offers little assurance that the 19-country euro currency union has left behind its problems with debt. The huge debt pile in Greece and an even bigger one in Italy will remain a lurking financial threat to Europe that could take a generation to defuse”.
Nevertheless, almost exactly ten years to the day since the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the start of the financial crisis, the eurozone is once again growing albeit slowly, in part because the bailout staved off complete economic collapse that threatened its very survival.