'No support' for retroactive bailout fund - Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem

Wednesday 10 July 2013 19.55
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Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the ESM would be used as a "last, very last resort"
Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the ESM would be used as a "last, very last resort"
Customers at a Bank of Cyprus branch after the country's banks re-opened following 12 days of closure on March
Customers at a Bank of Cyprus branch after the country's banks re-opened following 12 days of closure on March

The president of the Eurogroup, which consists of the eurozone’s finance ministers, has said he does not see "any political support" for the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund to operate retroactively.

The Government here wants the ESM to take stakes in Irish pillar banks AIB and Bank of Ireland, thereby alleviating some the country's banking debt.

However in an interview with Le Figaro Jeroen Dijsselbloem - who is also the Netherlands’s finance minister - said "I do not see any political support to make it retroactive."

He also took a very conservative standpoint on how the ESM would operate saying: "we will intervene as a last, very last resort."

Meanwhile the European Union's executive branch in Brussels has proposed giving itself far-reaching powers to decide what happens to banks that need rescuing in the future.

This is a key part of the EU's plan to restore confidence in the region's financial system.

Under the proposal detailed today, the EU Commission would act to rescue or wind down a bank, but only after hearing advice from a board consisting of the European Central bank, its own officials and national authorities.

Based on that recommendation, ''or on its own initiative, the Commission would decide whether and when to place a bank into resolution," a Commission statement said.

Some see it as another move by the EU authorities in Brussels to erode member countries' national sovereignty and the proposal is likely to run into opposition from Germany and others.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, who holds the EU's rotating presidency, said in a reaction it would be a ''challenge" for the EU nations to find common ground on the issue.

The common rules for a centralised approach would replace the current national strategies, where local banking regulators have often proved not to be forceful enough in dealing with their home banks.

The EU Commission's president, Jose Manuel Barroso, said that with the new proposal ''it should be banks themselves, and not European taxpayers, who should shoulder the burden of losses in the future."

Since the cost of savings banks can overwhelm individual governments' finances - as happened in Ireland and Cyprus, for example - the Commission said strong unified action is necessary.

The central authority to solve banking crises is one of three pillars in a broader ''banking union'' that the EU is trying to create. The other two are centralised banking oversight - to be adopted by the ECB - and a jointly guaranteed deposit insurance, which has yet to be agreed on.

The Commission indicated it proposed taking the lead role in solving banking crises because of legal constraints on other institutions.

In a statement, it said ''the Commission has the necessary experience on bank restructuring" and added that it was ''the best placed among EU institutions to ensure that final decisions fully respect the principles underpinning the functioning of the EU."

The Commission insisted national authorities and the ECB would have a key role in leading the Commission's actions.

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