Eric Cantona's Bank Protest looks set to flop
Eric Cantona’s attempt to collapse the European financial system by orchestrating a run on the banks looks set to flop, with a slow trickle of people turning out to drain their accounts.
The plan, dubbed “Bankrun 2010”, has been condemned by the French Banking Federation as “stupid in every sense” and “a charter for thieves”.
Cantona, the actor and former Manchester United striker, hopes that 20 million people across Europe will bring down the banks by withdrawing their life savings today.
A slow trickle of customers turned up to empty their accounts in Paris this morning, but there was still no sign of queues forming 90 minutes after banks opened at 9am.
Around 40,000 people have pledged to take part in the bankrun on a French Facebook site dedicated to the idea, while almost 9,000 have signed up to the British page.
But Pierre Boquet, the retail brance head of France’s banking federation, said even those who followed through on the threat to withdraw their savings would soon reopen their accounts.
“We all need a bank account just to get our salaries, social benefits, to place your money in a safe place," he said.
“Credit is the lung of the economy. It’s what enables companies to invest and it creates jobs”.
The campaign has garnered widespread coverage in France, with the front page of Le Parisien newspaper carrying the headline: “Can we live without our banks?”
Jean-Philippe, a young account holder who removed all his money this morning, told the rolling news channel I-tele: “It went very well. I was able to get hold of my funds. I turned up, I asked for 1200 euros. I felt relieved. I think it’s the first I’ve left the bank with a light heart.”
But he admitted that the campaign was unlikely to crash the banking system. “The idea isn’t really to bring down the system, it’s to show our anger against the system that is increasingly disdainful”.
Gérard, 58, a former bank employee, is one of the Facebook activists who has pledged to remove their savings.
“When I started my banking career in the 70s, I was proud to work in this sector,” he told France Info.
“Today, nobody dares admit they work in a bank. Banking practices have deteriorated. People have had enough. Banks are in a dominant position, it’s obvious, which they clearly abuse.”
Cantona first voiced the idea of an orchestrated bankrun in a filmed interview last month which became a YouTube hit.
"No weapons, no blood," he said, invoking the calling card of notorious French bank robber Albert Spaggiari, who in 1976 made off with millions of francs after tunnelling his way into a branch of Societe Generale.
But his idea has met widespread criticism and mockery in financial circles.
Christine Lagarde, the finance minister told Cantona to stick to football earlier this week.
"Mr Cantona is no stranger to controversy. He is a great footballer, but I'm not sure we need to pay heed to all his suggestions," she said
Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, echoed French bank chiefs by branding the plan “irresponsible".
Antoine Delhommais, the commentator, has accused Cantona of hypocrisy, pointing out that he has benefited handsomely from the fruits of capitalism.
"One imagines he hasn't worked for free for all these years, advertising the merits of Bic razors, Nike shoes, Partouche casinos, Neuf Telecom, Lipton Teas, the Renault Laguna or L'Oréal deodorants.”