"The crisis in Greece was one thing, but what is happening in Italy now is huge," says economist George Friedman, chairman of Geopolitical Futures, as Italian banks with huge debt raises fears of a new financial crisis in the EU.
Dressed in white T-shirts with slogans, protesters have smuggled banners and posters through the iron ring of police.
"Savings must be protected, not stolen" it says.
- The state allowed the bank to steal our savings, says Manuela Lanzi. She lost 10,000 euro.
Fransico Nocentini is 81 years old and has been a customer in the same bank for 50 of them.
- All our savings disappeared, while they took our dignity.
He puts his arm protectively around his wife. With a stroke of the pen, former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi erased 220,000 euros of the couple's painstakingly accumulated funds, as they were written down to 0 euros on 22 November last year.
Demonstrators talk about the amounts they have lost. Money that would supplement their small pensions, secure housing or help unemployed children. Altogether there are at least 130,000 Italians who have had their savings nullified so far.
- It is Renzis fault! some say.
- It is the EU's fault, others say.
The so-called "bail-in law" that would prevent countries to pay for bank failures in other countries, not only made sure the government would not have to take a loss, but it would ensure that private investors had to bear their share.
- When Italian banks falls, other European banks who have money in Italian banks will get affected. The crisis in Greece was one thing, but what is happening in Italy now is huge. If it really collapses, it will give the impression of a great failure of the EU system, says economist George Friedman, chairman of Geopolitical Futures, and author of several bestsellers, most recently "Flashpoints: The Emerging Crises in Europe."
- The Bail-in law made ordinary savers into investors who took risks. The law means that your money is only secure outside the EU or under the mattress. This will have serious political and social consequences, says Friedman, and adds:
- A person who puts money in the bank is doing it for safety, not as a speculative investment. A society's guarantee of bank deposits is fundamental. You can not just turn a savings account into a risk investment. This is a European, not just an Italian problem. It is a fundamental test of the protection Europe offers to people who have money in the bank and the purpose of the EU. This is the real test for Europe, says Friedman.
Unemployment in Italy is one of Europe's highest. The country has had a fall in investment of 30 percent since the financial crisis in 2008. The banking crisis in Italy is like an unexploded bomb under the entire European project.
Add to this an unrestricted immigration of Third World migrants coming to Italy across the Mediterranean each day, and you have a perfect storm in the brewing.
Altogether, Italian banks have 360 billion euros in loans that can go partially or completely lost, and it could affect your bank too.
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