Europe is going to begin both capital and border controls.
This is not some idle conjecture. We know that the political elite in Europe are only too happy to ignore the rule of law whenever the crisis gets too out of hand. Indeed, this won’t even be the first time that this happens in the EU.
Back in March of 2012, when the EU Crisis first began to spin out of control, then Prime Minister of France Nicolas Sarkozy openly called for the renegotiation of the Schengen Treaty: the treaty that established the 26-nation EU as a “borderless” entity in which individuals could move from one country to another with little difficulty and which also made trade among EU members easier.
France was not alone either. A few months later, both France and Germany proposed imposing border controls in June of that same year.
A Vote of No Confidence in Europe
Germany and France's joint proposal to allow Schengen-zone countries to temporarily reintroduce border controls as a means of last resort might sound harmless. But doing so would damage one of the strongest symbols of European unity and perhaps even contribute to the EU's demise.
Germany and France are serious this time. During next week's meeting of European Union interior ministers, the two countries plan to start a discussion about reintroducing national border controls within the Schengen zone. According to the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich and his French counterpart, Claude Guéant, have formulated a letter to their colleagues in which they call for governments to once again be allowed to control their borders as "an ultima ratio" -- that is, measure of last resort -- "and for a limited period of time." They reportedly go on to recommend 30-days for the period.
What triggered such a move?
A GREXIT: the exact same issue that is once again being tossed around. Indeed, as the below story from June 2012 shows, EU leaders were proposing capital controls, border controls, and even limiting the amount of money that could be removed from ATMs throughout Europe.
Exclusive: EU floats worst-case plans for Greek euro exit: sources
European finance officials have discussed as a worst-case scenario limiting the size of withdrawals from ATM machines, imposing border checks and introducing capital controls in at least Greece should Athens decide to leave the euro…
As well as limiting cash withdrawals and imposing capital controls, they have discussed the possibility of suspending the Schengen agreement, which allows for visa-free travel among 26 countries, including most of the European Union.
If you think anything has changed in Europe between 2012 and today, you’re mistaken. Europe’s banking system and monetary union remain as fragile as they were then, if not more so.
The European banking system as a whole is leveraged at over 26 to 1. That’s the ENTIRE European Banking system leveraged at near Lehman levels (Lehman was 30 to 1 when it collapsed).
To put this into perspective, with a leverage level of 26 to 1, you only need a 4% drop in asset prices to wipe out ALL capital. What are the odds that European bank assets have fallen 4% in value in the last two years?
The European crisis is not over. And when the next round really hits, whether it be from Greece leaving the Euro or some other issue, both capital and border controls will be implemented.
Europe came this close to such a situation in 2012. This time around the ECB won’t be able to pull it back from the brink.
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