EU agrees new financial supervision framework

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Image caption Europe is following the US in implementing financial reform

European Union finance ministers have agreed to establish a new framework for financial supervision, designed to help prevent future financial crises.

The measures include a European Systemic Risk Board to oversee the health of Europe's economy.

Ministers also approved a second instalment of emergency loans to Greece worth 9bn euros ($11.4bn; £7.5bn).

They were unable, however, to agree a new Europe-wide bank levy or bank transaction tax.

Continued uncertainty

Other supervisory bodies that will oversee banking, financial markets, insurance and pensions were also agreed by the ministers, who endorsed an agreement reached with the European Parliament on 2 September.

They include the European Banking Authority, the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority, and the European Securities and Markets Authority.

These bodies will have the power to intervene in the affairs of individual coutntries if EU members agree that the domestic regulator is failing in its duties.

They will not, however, be able to sanction measures that involve spending taxpayers' money - they cannot order any bail-outs, for example.

The Council of the European Union said the European Parliament "is expected" to ratify these bodies later this month. They will then become "operational as planned" from 1 January next year.

The framework had already been agreed in principle earlier this month.

EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said the new framework was necessary in light of the continued economic uncertainty in Europe.

"I think it is important to underline that while we have stabilised the situation in the spring and during the summer concerning financial stability in the euro area, we are not out of the woods yet."

Europe's move follows the sweeping Wall Street reforms that President Barack Obama signed into law in July.

Bank tax

France, Germany and the UK have already committed to introducing a bank levy, designed to cover the costs of any future financial crises.

Following the multi-billion-dollar bail-outs made by governments across the world in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008, the leaders of Europe's three biggest economies have argued strongly that taxpayers should not be expected to foot the bill for any future crises.

However, the ministers were unable to agree to a Europe-wide levy. They were also unable to agree to a tax on individual financial transactions.

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said: "It is very difficult to see how in practice you could make a transaction tax operate in a world in which capital markets and financial activity can move very quickly to jurisdictions outside the European Union."

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble did not, however, dismiss the tax altogether: "My view remains that there is no certainty on this, but there is a chance [it will be introduced]".

Ministers said they would discuss both the bank levy and transaction tax again at an informal meeting in Brussels on 30 September and 1 October.