Stephanie Flanders
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How is the European Central Bank helping the banks?

21 October 2011 Last updated at 22:02 BST

We've all heard of bank runs. In the 1930s - or indeed in the modern-day case of the UK's Northern Rock - it meant long queues of customers outside their bank branches.

This year, European banks have been faced with an electronic bank run, similar although not as severe as the one seen during the 2008 financial crisis.

During such a panic, a central bank like the European Central Bank plays a key role in steadying the ship. BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders explains how.

You can find out more on our special report: The global economy - making it clear