European finance ministers are following through on the accord made at the European Summit held June 28 and 29 to create a single regulatory agency under the watchful eyes of the European Central Bank (ECB). The single body would oversee 25 or more of Europe’s largest banks and allow smaller banks to remain under their particular nation’s banking authorities. The agency would be based in Brussels.
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There is little expectation, however, that the ministers will make much progress on drafting the details of the proposals outlined at the Summit. Most of the attention of officials at the meeting will likely be on structuring the €100 billion aid package to Spain’s banking system.
The Greek bailout as well as a bailout for Cypress are also expected to be main discussion points. The establishment of the single banking authority was announced at the Summit as a major breakthrough. It also was proclaimed to be a pre-condition for providing aid to failing European banks.
First duties of the authority would be to ensure compliance with European Union guidelines. The ability to determine a failing bank’s fate and to provide deposit insurance would come later.
Obstacles still exist to the formation of the ECB agency. Germany, for one, is concerned that overseeing an agency of this type might interfere with the ECB’s charge to control price increases. It fears that the ECB might come under pressure to take inflationary tactics in the process of helping distressed banks.
The attempt to base the oversight agency in Brussels rather than Frankfurt (the ECB’s base) is an attempt to allay those concerns. European nations want to retain power and do not wish to locate an authority outside the European Union.
The London-based European Banking Authority (EBA) conducted stress tests on European banks last year which painted a gloomy picture. The EBA has been the bank regulatory oversight body for Europe since January of 2011.