Bank regulator not easy: Berlin

Bank regulator not easy: Berlin

Bank regulator not easy: Berlin

Two women walk past an ATM machine at Spain’s lender bank Bankia in Madrid. German Finance Minister Schaeuble has dampened hopes for stressed banks to get access to rescue funds directly. REUTERS photo

Germany’s finance minister said yesterday that a new Europe-wide banking supervisor is unlikely to be up and running in the new year, dampening hopes that stressed banks could soon tap available rescue funds directly, according to the Associated Press.

The European Commission will make proposals for a new supervisory system Sept. 12. Internal market commissioner Michel Barnier said last week he hopes it could be phased in starting next January and be extended to all banks in the eurozone at the beginning of 2014.

EU leaders agreed in June funds set up to bail out indebted governments could be allowed to funnel money directly to ailing banks - rather than via governments which would add to their debt burden - once an effective central bank supervision system is established. Barnier voiced hopes that banks could be helped directly from the 500 billion euros ($629 billion) European Stability Mechanism, Europe’s planned permanent bailout fund, starting in January.

However, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was skeptical about whether the new system would start work next year.

“I think that’s pretty unrealistic,” he said on Deutschlandfunk radio.

“I have my doubts that it will come so quickly, and so I think that once again expectations are being created here that can’t be fulfilled, not even close,” Schaeuble said. “That is always a reason for trouble and nervousness in the financial markets.”

Berlin and Brussels already appear at odds on the extent of the new supervisor’s powers.

Barnier has argued that all banks need to be supervised centrally by the European Central Bank; Germany argues that the supervisor should limit its focus to major banks whose stability is vital to Europe’s financial security. Germany insists that, if the supervisory job is handed to the ECB, decision-making on banking supervision and monetary policy must be strictly separated.

 The ECB is currently working on plans for a bond-buying program aimed at lowering the borrowing costs of debt-ridden governments, including Spain and Italy. ECB President Mario Draghi is expected to detail a new approach after the monthly meeting on Sept. 6 of the bank’s governing council.

Controversy in Germany
The plans are controversial in Germany, which is the biggest backer of Europe’s financial rescue efforts. The country’s national central bank, the Bundesbank, and its head, Jens Weidmann, oppose a big escalation in the ECB’s bond-buying strategy. They argue that it risks breaching the EU treaty provision barring the ECB from directly backing governments.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, has indicated she’s open to the ECB’s plans while still insisting that she wants Weidmann to have as much influence as possible at the bank. Schaeuble stressed that the government respects the independence of the ECB and the Bundesbank. He cautioned against raising “wrong expectations” and expressed confidence that the ECB won’t exceed its mandate.

 “There must be no decisions - we would consider them completely wrong, they would not be covered by the mandate of the European Central Bank, but the European Central Bank won’t do that - that would amount to government debt being financed through monetary policy,” he said.

Summit on bloc budget
Meanwhile an extraordinary summit of EU leaders will be held on Nov. 22-23 to try and settle a battle over an estimated trillion euros of the bloc’s spending, EU President Herman Van Rompuy’s spokesman said.

“President Van Rompuy has convened a summit on November 22-23 on the Mulit-annual Financial Framework,” Dirk De Backer told Agence France-Presse.

The European Union expects to have an estimated 1.0 trillion euros ($1.25 trillion) to spend in a seven-year budgetary cycle from 2014 to 2020, but is locked in drawn-out negotiations over its spending plans and its funding mechanisms.

Leaders are already scheduled to gather at EU headquarters in Brussels on October 18-19, when bailouts for Greece and Spain are expected to dominate the discussion, and again on December 13-14, also on efforts to resolve the debt crisis for the long term.

On the budget, negotiators face fights over farm subsidies and aid for poorer regions (with each counting for 40 percent of its budget), and whether and to what extent the EU should be free to raise more of its own money via taxes, notably on financial transactions.