By Francesco Guarascio
European Union countries should share more banking risks, the chairman of euro zone finance ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Saturday, indicating support for a plan to set up a EU-wide guarantee for bank deposits which is opposed by Germany.
“The way we have built the banking union so far is to deal with risks in our banking system and at the same time talking about sharing risks. That approach has to be taken further,” Dijsselbloem told reporters ahead of a meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Luxembourg.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in his state of the union speech to the EU parliament on Wednesday that he would soon make a concrete proposal on steps towards a European deposit insurance/reinsurance scheme.
But Germany opposes the idea of setting up a EU-wide guarantee, fearing its accumulated funds could be used to guarantee the deposits of savers in other European countries.
The common deposit guarantee would represent the third pillar of a European banking union, an initiative designed to strengthen the financial sector in response to the sovereign debt crisis.
The 19 countries sharing the euro have already agreed on a single bank supervisor and a Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM)for winding up failed banks, with the costs to be covered from a dedicated fund, filled by the banks themselves.
A German government document prepared ahead of the euro zone finance ministers’ meeting said that before such a scheme could be introduced, the two existing elements of the banking union should be fully implemented and tested.
“My understanding is that (German Finance Minister Wolfgang) Schaeuble said we must reduce risks in the banking systems and he would rather talk of that side of the medal, but there are two sides of the medal,” Dijsselbloem told reporters.
“There is the side of reducing risks and at the same time building a more risk sharing system. We have to take both approaches at the same time as far as I am concerned,” Dijsselbloem added.
The issue will be one of the main points of discussion of the finance ministers of the 19 countries sharing the euro on Saturday.
But they will also discuss on Saturday if the euro zone’s single resolution fund (SRF), which is to cover the expenses of winding down a bank, should at the start get a credit line from the euro zone’s bailout fund, the ESM.
The SRF, which will start in 2016, will be financed from annual contributions from banks, but it will only reach its target size of 55 billion euros after seven years.
The Commission and the ECB argue that until then it should get bridge financing directly from the ESM in the form of an open credit line, similar to the credit line enjoyed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in the United States.
Germany and Finland oppose this idea, sticking to the initial agreement that the ESM should only lend to governments, not to institutions like the SRF. To allow it, euro zone countries would have to change the ESM treaty.