EU summit: France says bank deal helps eurozone fusion


The BBC's Gavin Hewitt reports on the winners and losers in the deal

The French president says a deal to start building a banking union on 1 January will enable the eurozone to speed up economic integration.

"Thanks to this we can advance more quickly and with more assurance," Francois Hollande said in Brussels.

He was speaking after EU leaders agreed to set up a single banking supervisor for the 17-nation eurozone - a key step towards a banking union.

But Mr Hollande also said EU states "need different speeds" of integration.

"We should have a council of the eurozone to meet on a regular basis... We need different speeds - that's agreed by everyone now, and there are even some moving backwards," he told a news conference.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted again that "quality takes precedence over speed" in setting up the banking union.

New ECB clout

It has been agreed that the European Central Bank (ECB), as supervisor-in-chief, will have the power to intervene in any of the eurozone's 6,000 banks.

The deal appears to be a compromise between France and Germany, who earlier disagreed over the timing and over the number of banks the ECB would oversee.

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Compromising and fudging is the way business often gets done in Brussels”

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A legislative framework is to be in place by 1 January, with the supervisory body starting work later in 2013.

The timetable remains important, because only when the body is fully operational will the eurozone's new rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), be able to recapitalise struggling banks directly, without adding to a country's sovereign debt pile.

A priority is to rescue weak banks in Spain, where a recent audit put the bailout requirement at 59.3bn euros (£48.3bn; $77.4bn).

But the Greek crisis also looms large, as the EU awaits a key report from the "troika" of international lenders - the ECB, European Commission and International Monetary Fund.

Mr Hollande insisted that "Greece's presence in the eurozone should not be questioned any more" and Mrs Merkel said the Greek government was "really making an all-out effort" to reform its economy.

Meanwhile, Spain's main trade unions have called a general strike for 14 November, coinciding with similar protests in Portugal and Greece.

Banking union - Three-stage plan

  • Single supervisory mechanism (SSM)
  • Joint resolution scheme to wind down failing banks
  • Joint deposit guarantee scheme
'Ambitious roadmap'

Berlin wanted to apply the brakes over the banking union and much wrangling lies ahead, the BBC's Europe editor Gavin Hewitt says.

Mrs Merkel insisted on Friday that "the right sequence is important" and added: "It's already quite an ambitious roadmap."

Germany had been at odds with the European Commission over the scope of the proposed ECB supervision. All the eurozone banks will be included - but Germany had wanted it limited to the biggest, "systemic" banks.

Previously, the German government has expressed a desire to retain supervisory responsibility within Germany over the country's Landesbanks - state-owned banks that play a key role in the economies and state finances of Germany's federal regions.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the 27 EU leaders had agreed to set up "a Single Supervisory Mechanism [SSM], to prevent banking risks and cross-border contagion from emerging".

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Sofia Palma Rodrigues

What the media do not do enough is study the reasons we are in this crisis”

End Quote Sofia Palma Rodrigues Portuguese journalist

"Once this is agreed, the SSM could probably be effectively operational in the course of 2013," he said.

With new supervisory powers the ECB would be able to act early on to prevent a systemically dangerous accumulation of debt on a bank's balance sheets.

UK concerns

ECB supervision will not extend to the UK - Europe's main financial centre, but outside the euro.

However, the BBC's Business editor Robert Peston says there is now a serious risk that the UK will always be outvoted when decisions are taken on the regulation of banking and finance in the EU as a whole.

It is more than a theoretical possibility that the interests of the UK and City of London in shaping financial rules will be systematically ignored or overridden, he says. The UK also wants safeguards to protect the powers of the Bank of England.

Mrs Merkel said the agreement was that "banks must be supervised in a differentiated way. That means that some will be direct... at the ECB level and others indirectly, via the national authorities."

She also said that ECB President Mario Draghi had told her it would be some months before the ECB was ready to take on its new role.

Fraught with complications

The leaders agreed that the ECB's new supervisory function would be strictly separated from its role in setting monetary policy.

The banking union plan is fraught with legal complications, as it would give more powers to the ECB and possibly weaken those of national regulators.

There is speculation that it could lead to treaty changes - something that has caused big headaches for the EU in the past.

The EU Commission said the arrangement would be "as inclusive as legally possible for non-euro members to join if they want to".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    Yet again another law to be introduced without any real time studying it's implications. I fail to see how controlling banks will stabilise the EURO, which was also introduced without a complete study of the consequences unless of course there is a central control of budgets. This is the same control that Merkel wants and unfortuately the only solution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    The citizens of Europe have a duty and obligation to oppose the EU until it becomes more democratically accountable, or until it ceases to function. The current relentless trend to integration by non-democratic means is simply not acceptable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    So he's saying what we've all agreed on for some time now; that there should be a single European banking regulator but that some countries are more reluctant than others to take part in it and therefore must be allowed to do things at their own pace.

    I can't disagree with that, and at least the politicians are now starting to understand the reality of the situation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    The EU has already demonstrated a colossal series of macro and micro economic failures, a lack of European political vision and strategy and a huge imbalance of power. On paper the EU sounded great, the reality is and like many predicted, it is failing massively! Some great ideas but in a world dominated by cash, I wouldn't opt for an EU run banking system in a world full of corruption and greed..

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    For those members and citizens that would like to see a more federalised Europe, this is a great plan. My only question would be, why wasn't this done sooner? Why did the EU spend years trying to treat the symptoms and not the cause which was a deeply flawed system of economic governance? Hopefully now Europe's economies will gradually be able to synchronise.


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