Wednesday

17th Aug 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.

Conditions met for German nuclear extension, officials say

Conditions have been met for the German government to allow a temporary lifetime extension of three remaining nuclear reactors, according to the Wall Street Journal, as the country is facing a likely shortage of gas this winter.

Column

Is this strange summer a moment of change?

It is a strange, strange summer. The war in Ukraine continues, 60 percent of Europe is in danger of drought, and Covid is still around and could rebound in the autumn. At the same time, everyone is desperate for normalcy.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  4. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis

Latest News

  1. Conditions met for German nuclear extension, officials say
  2. A year of Taliban — only aid is keeping Afghan kids alive
  3. Is this strange summer a moment of change?
  4. Germany rejects visa ban for Russian tourists
  5. Iran responds to EU's 'final text' on nuclear deal
  6. Model minority myths
  7. EU must make public who really owns its fishing fleets
  8. Germany needs to cut gas use by 20% to stave off winter crisis

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us