Open Europe Blog

Media reports on the outcome of eurozone summit discussions last night are mixed, but there is general theme that eurozone leaders have taken ‘a step closer to banking union’. Looking at the latest conclusions  (see here),we wouldn’t quite describe it as a step closer – at least not a big step.

·         The timetable (which everyone admittedly knew was unrealistic) has been delayed. Previously the eurozone was insistent on the single supervisor being up and running by the start of 2013, now it is some point during 2013 (with strong suggestions that this will be after the autumn German elections).
·         There is discussion on including / accommodating non-euro members but no detail on how this will be done (particularly in reference to Sweden, Poland but also the UK) or how the recently publicised legal concerns within the Commission will be dealt with. There is expected to be a substantial amount of progress on tricky legal and political issues before the end of the year.
·         The one point of agreement was that the ECB will supervise all 6,000 eurozone banks, seemingly a positive step on the surface. However, in a concession to Germany, it was also established that much of the day to day running of the supervision of smaller regional banks would still be conducted by national financial supervisors. This raises further difficult questions about the already poorly defined relationship between the ECB and national supervisors.
·         The leaders simply reaffirmed that the ESM, the eurozone’s bailout fund, would be able to recapitalise banks directly once the single supervisor is in place – but this was never in doubt. The real question over whether the ESM can retrospectively take on the burden on bank recapitalisations, relieving ailing governments of the problem, was left unanswered with little discussion.
·         There was another call for the harmonisation of deposit and resolution schemes across the eurozone – an issue which has already been delayed by two years due to political posturing. More importantly, talk of a combined backstop and resolution mechanism for the banking union was kicked into the long grass. As we said before, that element of banking union is, at best, years away.
·         Lastly, we still find it hard to see how the EU can hold a meeting and not find time to discuss Spain or Greece in detail, given that their problems are the most immediate concern.
So more standing still or treading water. Again this reinforces the fear that, as soon as the financial and economic climate looks slightly more positive, any hope of progress on the tough decisions goes out the window.To be fair though, as Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt likes to say, the most important thing is to get it right.
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