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What really caused the eurozone crisis?

World leaders probably spent more time worrying about the eurozone crisis than anything else in 2011.

And that was in the year that featured the Arab Spring, the Japanese tsunami and the death of Osama Bin Laden. What's more, 2012 looks set to be not much different. But as eurozone governments hammer out new rules to limit their borrowing, are they missing the point of the crisis?

   * The eurozone has agreed a new "fiscal compact"
   * Eurozone leaders have agreed to a tough set of rules - insisted on by Germany - that will limit their governments' "structural" borrowing (that is, excluding any extra borrowing due to a recession) to just 0.5% of their economies' output each year. It will also limit their total borrowing to 3%. These rules are supposed to stop them accumulating too much debt, and make sure there won't be another financial crisis.
   * But didn't they already agree to this back in the '90s?
   * Hang on a minute. They agreed to exactly the same 3% borrowing limit back in 1997, when the euro was being set up. The "stability and growth pact" was insisted on by German finance minister Theo Waigel (centre of image). What happened?
   * So who kept to the rules?
   * Italy was the worst offender. It regularly broke the 3% annual borrowing limit. But actually Germany - along with Italy - was the first big country to break the 3% rule. After that, France followed. Of the big economies, only Spain kept its nose clean until the 2008 financial crisis; the Madrid government stayed within the 3% limit every year from the euro's creation in 1999 until 2007. Not only that - of the four, Spain's government also has the smallest debts relative to the size of its economy. Greece, by the way, is in a class of its own. It never stuck to the 3% target, but manipulated its borrowing statistics to look good, which allowed it to get into the euro in the first place. Its waywardness was uncovered two years ago.
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