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20th Jan 2020

Europe unveils its vision for global financial reform

  • PM Brown arriving at the summit. The UK wants more regulation of financial markets but not too much regulation. (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

EU leaders have agreed on a set of principles that should guide future talks on the reform of the global financial architecture, urging for more regulation and transparency in the sector that has delivered the world's biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"No financial institution, no market segmentation and no jurisdiction must escape proportionate and adequate regulation or at least oversight," states the document adopted at an extraordinary summit on Friday (7 November).

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The list of desired measures will be presented at the G20 summit of industrialised and emerging economies on 15 November in Washington.

The measures includes a call for transparency of financial transactions through revised accounting standards, an early warning system to tackle risks and a central role for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) "in a more efficient financial architecture."

"We don't want to move from the total lack of regulation to too much regulation," said French President Nicolas Sarkozy whose country currently holds the six-month presidency of the 27-strong Union.

He admitted that the three-hour debate with his EU counterparts was "pretty intense" but it did amount to a "united message" that they will send to other world powers next week.

"We will be defending a common position, a vision for restructuring our financial system," said the French leader.

Both Sweden and Britain reportedly expressed some unease about too much pro-regulation activism on France's part. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the EU agreed there would be no place for protectionism in the global talks next week.

The EU's scenario also included a chapter about the need to overhaul pay policy for company executives. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that the issue of executive remuneration is "important and should be linked to long-term performance," although he did not endorse Belgian plans to limit executive pay-outs to a maximum of 12 months' salary.

"We are not for interventionism, we are for a good performance of the markets, we are for a social economy of the markets," commented European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Great expectations

Mr Sarkozy said that he had spoken to both outgoing US President George W Bush and his successor, Barack Obama, about next week's meeting in Washington.

The document endorsed by all EU leaders states that within 100 days of the top-level global talks, measures to implement the principles desired by Europe should be drawn up.

"It has to be a real historic meeting," said Mr Barroso.

The French leader argued that additional countries, such as Spain and the Netherlands, should be invited to the G20 meeting, adding that Paris, which as both a G7 member and current chair of the six-month rotating EU presidency temporarily has two seats at such meetings, will offer one of its two places to Madrid.

Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg's premier and finance minister as well as president of the Eurogroup, said he requested on Friday a single seat for the eurozone countries within the international financial institutions, with non-euro countries represented separately.

But he admitted that his idea was "too difficult for prime ministers to cope with", yet maintained confidence that this would happen eventually, as most of the EU countries, including the UK, will be part of the eurozone in 10 years.

He said he was "not offended" for not having been invited to the G20 meeting on 15 November - a day he would instead spend "between his bedsheets." Still, he criticised the fact that the EU has the tendency to be "over-represented" in the financial institutions, noting that the European Commission was not a G20 member, but will still take part in the global talks.

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