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The Eurozone crisis is an ongoing crisis that has been affecting the countries of the Eurozone since late 2009. It is a combined government debt crisis, a banking crisis and a growth and competitiveness crisis. The crisis made it difficult or impossible for some countries in the eurozone to repay or refinance their government debt without the assistance of third parties. Moreover, banks in the Eurozone are undercapitalised and have faced liquidity problems. Additionally, economic growth is slow in the whole of the Eurozone and is unequally distributed across the member states. Governments of the states most severely affected by the crisis have co-ordinated their responses with a committee dubbed "the Troika" formed by three international organisations: the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In 1992, members of the European Union signed the Maastricht Treaty, under which they pledged to limit their deficit spending and debt levels. However, in the early 2000s, a number of EU member states were failing to stay within the confines of the Maastricht criteria and turned to securitising future government revenues to reduce their debts and/or deficits. Sovereigns sold rights to receive future cash flows, allowing governments to raise funds without violating debt and deficit targets, but sidestepping best practice and ignoring internationally agreed standards. This allowed the sovereigns to mask their deficit and debt levels through a combination of techniques, including inconsistent accounting, off-balance-sheet transactions as well as the use of complex currency and credit derivatives structures. (via Freebase)