Tue, Dec 24, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Europe launches weak measure to protect its banks

By John O’Donnell  /  Reuters, BRUSSELS

The European Central Bank (ECB), whose representative in the meeting, Vitor Constancio, was highly critical throughout negotiations, is not satisfied. However, there is little the ECB, which wants to stay outside the political wrangle, can do.

Instead, it and others hope the deal can be toughened up in negotiations with the European Parliament.

Sharon Bowles, an influential lawmaker who will play a key role in these negotiations, said the system proposed was too political.

“We don’t trust the countries on this,” she said.

However, it seems unlikely that they will be able to persuade Germany, which continues to stand firm against the use of eurozone money to back a scheme for tackling troubled banks, to soften its position. Throughout negotiations Berlin has determined much of the agenda.

It succeeded in winning an early introduction of EU rules that allow the imposition of losses from early 2016 on the bondholders and even large depositors of failing banks, as happened in Cyprus.

Yet the quid pro quo that many of its peers expected, namely that Germany would sanction pan-eurozone backing for a fund to cover the clean-up costs, never materialized.

“It’s a very German deal,” said one official who attended the negotiations. “There is not much there for the others.”

Germany’s finance minister trumpeted the agreement as a route to impose losses on investors.

One ally, Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, was even more forthright.

“Everyone is always very interested in the backstop. I’m interested in prestops,” he said. “Banks ... can take the first blow. The second blow will have to be carried by the investors, shareholders, bondholders in the banks. And the third blow ... will be carried by the fund, but the fund is also paid by the sector itself.”

However, German Member of the European Parliament Sven Giegold said Germany’s dismantling of much of the deal may come back to haunt it: “I find it shocking that one country is able to push through so much. When one country has too much power, this can backfire.”

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