Saturday 24 March 2018

Agreement comes down to the wire

Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

The end-of-year target to nail down a a deal on crunch issues needed for the establishment of a European banking union is fast approaching.

But with key players still at loggerheads on the question of who will pay for winding down failed banks, there is a real danger the deadline could be missed.

Politicians love drama, almost as much as journalists, so we have had months of it on the financing issue.

But there are signs of a breakthrough. The latest reports out of Brussels suggest that the eurozone's "big two" -- Germany and France -- are close to settling their differences on the issue.

It follows behind-closed-doors meetings in Berlin on Friday where a sub-set of European finance ministers and officials tried to hammer out a common position.

The sticking point to date has been staunch opposition from Germany and some other northern European allies to any proposals that give the European Commission a big say in closing failed banks -- including control over the purse strings.

The French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici told the 'Financial Times' that it was essential that any deal on funding the winding up of collapsing banks should include a central rescue fund, proposed by the European Commission to amount to €55bn.

In theory this so-called Single Resolution Fund will be financed from bank levies, but it will be years before that becomes a reality.

In the meantime, cash has to come from somewhere -- potentially a new common European fund.


That idea is being resisted by Germany which would prefer to see a network of national funds instead.

The EU has said it wants to agree a deal on the so-called bank resolution, a key plank of its ambitious "banking union" project, by year-end. Failure to meet that goal could lead to significant delays in implementation because of looming European Parliament elections and changes in the makeup of the European Commission.

There's a summit of European leaders taking place later this month and unless some sort of a deal is reached today, an emergency Ecofin gathering may be called prior to the summit.

Eurogroup chair Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who has been credited with tabling a compromise proposal, is hopeful there won't be a need for that.

Irish Independent

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business