The eurozone crisis is without question one of the most critical events to happen in the 21st century so far.
But it can be hard to navigate. To begin with, there’s no clear start date. Some people go with early 2010, when the scale of Greece’s public finance disaster became obvious, while others start in 2008, when the financial crisis kicked off.
There’s also some dispute over the end date. To some, European Central Bank president Mario Draghi’s “whatever it takes speech” marks a rough ending to the crisis. For others, it concludes with the end of the bloc’s second recession in 2013. A few think it’s still going on.
But there’s one thing that’s certain: veteran German chancellor Angela Merkel has the range of facial expressions to accurately guide anyone through the ups and downs of the past six years.
JANUARY 2008: In many ways, Europe looked like it was in good shape. Sixteen countries were members of what seemed to be a successful currency union. Europe had seen an extended period of growth and unemployment was at a modern record low.
AUTUMN 2008: The global financial crisis got into full swing. Several European banks, like Belgium's Dexia, had to be bailed out by their national governments.
EARLY 2009: By the beginning of the next year, things were not looking so great. Europe was hit by the global financial crisis with everyone else, and economies went into recession in 2009.
EARLY 2010: The EU discovered that Greece's budget deficit wasn't 3.7% as it reported, but 12.7%. By April, the country had to take a bailout and people started to seriously discuss whether the country could stay in the eurozone.
MAY 2010: EU leaders agreed a €500 billion fund to prop up the euro. This eventually became the European Financial Stability Facility, followed some months later by the European Stability Mechanism.
APRIL 2011: Some people, including European Central Bank boss Jean-Claude Trichet, had started to think the eurozone economies were recovering well enough to weather an increase in interest rates. The crisis was over!
MID-2011: Those people were wrong. Europe fell back into recession and the crisis deepened. The cost of servicing government debt in southern Europe started going through the roof during the summer.
NOVEMBER 2011: The G20 met in Cannes, France, and world leaders reportedly pitted themselves against Merkel, wanting more German support distressed European countries.
JANUARY 2012: S&P slashed the credit ratings of ten eurozone countries. This time it wasn't just governments like Greece and Ireland. France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Austria all had their ratings reduced.
JUNE 2012: European Central Bank president Mario Draghi promises to do 'whatever it takes' to maintain the eurozone, a speech seen as a major turning point in ending fears of a European breakup.
MID-2013: The eurozone official exits its second crisis recession, recording very feeble growth, with bond yields rapidly falling from the extremely high levels recorded during the worst parts of the crisis.
MID-2014: It's not all over yet. Departures from the eurozone and governments defaulting don't look likely, but growth and inflation are extremely low. Germany regularly gets the blame for blocking looser economic policies which could change this.
TODAY: What comes next? It's hard to say. Europe looks set for low growth and high unemployment, but the election of radical parties in southern Europe or another crisis could throw a spanner into the works.
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