Given the recent turmoil in the banking system, it’s no surprise that new figures from the European Central Bank show that there are now fewer banks in the euro area—274 fewer, to be precise—than there were around this time last year.

Hard-hit countries like Spain and Ireland lost the largest share of lenders during 2009. No euro-area country added banks over the year; only Belgium, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia started 2010 with the same number of financial institutions as 2009.

The financial crisis is not the only explanation for the decline. Easier access to cross-border financial services has brought about a steady consolidation of lenders, with the number of banks falling by 18% over the past ten years, despite five more countries joining the monetary union over that time.

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