Tuesday

25th Jan 2022

Analysis

The battle for banking union

  • AIB - the bailed-out Irish bank - under a European banking supervisor, would its problems have been spotted earlier? (Photo: Matt Buck)

In their last meeting before the summer break, EU leaders spoke about the need to break the "vicious link" between banks and sovereigns. The kind that allowed lenders to take unnecessary risks while local politicians conveniently looked the other way.

Now, just one week before a legislative proposal is to be tabled, the "vicious link" is in danger of being allowed to stay. And if it does, it will be down to significant lobbying by German Landesbanken and Sparkassen. In other words, the system will have lobbied to keep the system.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

At stake is whether a single banking supervisor should oversee all 6,000 euro-area banks.

Berlin wants only big banks to be directly monitored. The rest, as finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble recently wrote in the Financial Times, are to be treated differently.

The European Commission has said it will work out a compromise with Germany.

But in doing so it risks completely stripping the proposal of any of its usefulness.

It is not large banks, such as Deutsche Bank, where scrutiny is a problem, but much rather their smaller regional cousins.

Key issues that that will have to be dealt with in the banking proposal include how often banks are checked. Will it be on a weekly or monthly basis? Will the European Central Bank - the likely supervisor - give explicit orders or just make suggestions? Will Frankfurt will able to close down a bank? If so, in what circumstances and who will foot the bill?

At Germany's insistence, what is likely to emerge next week is a half-baked solution. There will be a European supervisor. But the national supervisors will ultimately hold sway.

This will essentially mean that no interfering and no much-needed light will be shined on Sparkassen or on any other small or medium bank in the eurozone. They will continue to operate under the scrutiny radar.

If this is the case, it will be go down as yet another of the eurozone's sticking plaster solutions.

More broadly, it will undermine Germany's case for closer political integration - ultimately involving treaty change - in the EU.

Berlin has been arguing to its somewhat mutinous euro partners that more scrutiny powers, particularly over national spending, need to be given to Brussels.

This, it says, would give confidence to the markets and prevent such a eurozone crisis from occurring again. Much the same case could be made for a European banking supervisor with bite.

Banking union to put 6,000 banks under ECB supervision

The European Central Bank will have the "ultimate decision-making authority" on supervising 6,000 euro-area banks, a commission spokesman has said. But Germany would like fewer banks included in the new system.

ECB to become bank union supremo

The ECB will supervise Europe’s biggest banks from mid-2013, according to controversial banking union proposals to be announced Wednesday.

Covid variants put Schengen under pressure

The EU Commission also raised concerns about the proportionality of Belgium's ban on non-essential travel, for people wishing to leave the country.

Opinion

Europe must plot its own course on China

Given China's size and interconnectedness with Europe, a strategic policy of non-engagement hardly deserves the label "strategic".

Vietnam jails journalist critical of EU trade deal

A journalist who had demanded the EU postpone its trade deal with Vietnam until human rights improved has been sentenced to 15 years in jail. The EU Commission says it first needs to conduct a detailed analysis before responding.

Latest News

  1. EIB invests €50m in autonomous delivery robot operator
  2. EU eyes Indian Ocean naval adventure
  3. EU auditors slam fragmented, sluggish 5G rollout
  4. EU and UK try to melt ice in post-Brexit talks
  5. German ministers condemn 'unrealistic' EU hydrogen rules
  6. 15 years on: How are Bulgaria and Romania doing in the EU?
  7. Coerced into pleading guilty: the rise of trial-waivers in Europe
  8. Poland and Hungary go hard on Belarus migrants

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us