Banking union

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The banking union in the European Union is the transfer of responsibility for banking policy from the national to the EU level in several countries of the European Union, initiated in 2012 as a response to the Eurozone crisis. The motivation for banking union was the fragility of numerous banks in the Eurozone, and the identification of vicious circle between credit conditions for these banks and the sovereign credit of their respective home countries ("bank-sovereign vicious circle"). In several countries, private debts arising from a property bubble were transferred to sovereign debt as a result of banking system bailouts and government responses to slowing economies post-bubble. Conversely, weakness in sovereign credit resulted in deterioration of the balance sheet position of the banking sector, not least because of high domestic sovereign exposures of the banks.

As of 2014, the banking union mainly consists of two main initiatives, the Single Supervisory Mechanism and Single Resolution Mechanism, which are based upon the EU's "single rulebook" or common financial regulatory framework.[1] The SSM took up its authority on 4 November 2014, and the SRM entered into full force on 1 January 2016.[2]

As of October 2018, the geographical scope of the banking union was identical to that of the euro area. In future, other non-euro member states of the EU may join the banking union under a procedure known as close cooperation. Bulgaria is expected to join in the course 2019, as part of its longer-term aim to adopt the euro as its currency.[3]

History[edit]

The integration of bank regulation has long been sought by EU policymakers, as a complement to the internal market for capital and, from the 1990s on, of the single currency. However, powerful political obstacles including the willingness of member states to retain instruments of financial repression and economic nationalism led to the failure of prior attempts to create a European framework for banking supervision, including during the negotiation of the Maastricht Treaty in 1991 and of the Treaty of Nice in 2000. During the 2000s, the emergence of pan-European banking groups through cross-border mergers and acquisitions (such as the purchases of Abbey National by Santander Group, HypoVereinsbank by UniCredit and Banca Nazionale del Lavoro by BNP Paribas) led to renewed calls for banking policy integration, not least by the International Monetary Fund,[4] but with limited policy action beyond the creation of the Committee of European Banking Supervisors in 2004.

Deterioration of credit conditions during the Eurozone crisis, and specifically the contagion of financial instability to larger member states of the euro area from the middle of 2011, led to renewed thinking about the interdependence between banking policy, financial integration, and financial stability. On 17 April 2012, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde renewed the institution's earlier calls for banking policy integration by specifically referring to the need for the euro monetary union to be "...supported by stronger financial integration which our analysis suggests be in the form of unified supervision, a single bank resolution authority with a common backstop, and a single deposit insurance fund."[5] The following week on 25 April 2012, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi echoed this call by noting in a speech before the European Parliament that "Ensuring a well-functioning EMU implies strengthening banking supervision and resolution at European level".[6] Suggestions for more integrated European banking supervision were further discussed during an informal European Council meeting on 23 May 2012, and appear to have been backed at the time by French President François Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.[7] German Chancellor Angela Merkel signalled a degree of convergence on this agenda when declaring on 4 June 2012, that European leaders "will also talk about to what extent we have to put systemically (important) banks under a specific European oversight".[8]

Another milestone was the report delivered on 26 June 2012, by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, which called for deeper integration in the Eurozone and proposed major changes in four areas. First, it called for a banking union encompassing direct recapitalisation of banks by the European Stability Mechanism, a common financial supervisor, a common bank resolution scheme and a deposit guarantee fund. Second, the proposals for a fiscal union included a strict supervision of eurozone countries' budgets, and calls for eurobonds in the medium term. Third, it called for more integration on economic policy, and fourth, for the strengthening of democratic legitimacy and accountability. The latter is generally envisioned as giving supervisory powers to the European Parliament in financial matters and in reinforcing the political union. A new treaty would be required to enact the proposed changes.[9]

The key moment of decision was a summit of euro area heads of state and government on 28–29 June 2012. The summit's brief statement, published early on 29 June, began with a declaration of intent, "We affirm that it is imperative to break the vicious circle between banks and sovereigns," which was later repeated in numerous successive communications of the European Council. It followed by announcing two major policy initiatives: first, the creation of the Single Supervisory Mechanism under the European Central Bank's authority, using Article 127(6) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; and second, "when an effective single supervisory mechanism is established," the possibility of direct bank recapitalisation by the European Stability Mechanism, possibly with retroactive effect in the case of Spain and Ireland.[10]

In the following weeks, the German government quickly backtracked on the commitment about direct bank recapitalisation by the ESM.[11] In September 2012, it was joined on this stance by the governments of Finland and the Netherlands.[12] Eventually, such conditions were put on the ESM direct recapitalisation instrument that, as of September 2014, it has never been activated. However, the creation of the Single Supervisory Mechanism proceeded apace. Furthermore, in December 2012 the European Council announced the creation of the Single Resolution Mechanism. Europe's banking union has been identified by many analysts and policymakers as a major structural policy initiative that has played a significant role in addressing the Eurozone crisis.[13]

Etymology[edit]

Bruegel, a Brussels-based think tank, has been credited for popularising both the concept and the expression of European banking union.[14][15] The earliest public use of the expression "banking union" in the Eurozone crisis context is an article by Bruegel scholar Nicolas Véron in December 2011.[16][17] This use paralleled the earlier advocacy of fiscal union by various observers and policymakers in the same context, especially in Germany in the second half of 2011.[18] From April 2012, the expression was later popularised by the financial press, initially with reference to its use by Bruegel.[19] From June 2012 onward, it was increasingly used in the public policy debate, including by the European Commission.[20]

Single Rulebook[edit]

The single rulebook is a name for the EU laws that collectively govern the financial sector across the entire European Union.[21][22] The provisions of the single rulebook are set out in three main legislative acts:[22][23]

  • Capital Requirements Regulation and Directive (also known as CRD IV; Regulation (EU) No 575/2013 of 26 June 2013; Directive 2013/36/EU of 26 June 2013), which implements the Basel III capital requirements for banks.[24][25][26]
  • Deposit Guarantee Scheme Directive (DGSD; Directive 2014/49/EU of 16 April 2014), which regulates deposit insurance in case of a bank's inability to pay its debts.[27][28]
  • Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD; Directive 2014/59/EU of 15 May 2014), which establishes a framework for the recovery and resolution of credit institutions and investment firms in danger of failing.[29][30]

Single Supervisory Mechanism[edit]

The Eurotower, home of the European Central Bank supervisory staff

One pillar of the banking union is the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM), which would grant the European Central Bank (ECB) a supervisory role to monitor the implementation of the single rulebook and the financial stability of banks based in participating states.[31]

Not all EU member states will participate in the SSM. Participation is automatic for eurozone states. Since the EU treaties only give the ECB jurisdiction over eurozone states, legally it cannot enforce measures in non-eurozone state. This would prevent the ECB from effectively carrying out its supervisory role in these states. However, the SSM allows for non-eurozone states to enter into a "close cooperation" agreement with the ECB to let banks in that country be supervised by the ECB provided that they have mechanisms in place to make ECB measures binding upon national authorities. A "close cooperation" agreement can be ended by the ECB or by the participating non-eurozone member state.[32] Participating non-eurozone states will also gain a seat on the ECB's Supervisory Board.[33]

While all banks in participating states will be under the supervision of the ECB, this will be carried out in co-operation with national supervisors. The most significant institutions, including those with holdings greater than 30 billion euros or 20% of the GDP of the state where they are based, and those directly funded by the European Stability Mechanism or European Financial Stability Facility, or have applied for such financing, will be directly supervised by the ECB.[32] Smaller banks will remain directly monitored by their national authorities, though the ECB has the authority to take over direct supervision of any bank.[32] The ECB's monitoring regime includes conducting stress tests on financial institutions.[32] If problems are found, the ECB will have the ability to conduct early intervention in the bank to rectify the situation, such as by setting capital or risk limits or by requiring changes in management. However, if a bank is in danger of failing, the responsibility for resolving it rests with the Single Resolution Mechanism.[32]

The SSM was enacted through two regulations:[33]

  • Council Regulation (EU) No 1024/2013 of 15 October 2013 conferring specific tasks on the European Central Bank concerning policies relating to the prudential supervision of credit institutions[34]
  • Regulation (EU) No 1022/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2013 amending Regulation (EU) No 1093/2010 establishing a European Supervisory Authority (European Banking Authority) as regards the conferral of specific tasks on the European Central Bank pursuant to Council Regulation (EU) No 1024/2013[35]

The European Commission released their proposal for the SSM in September 2012.[31] The European Parliament and Council agreed on the specifics of the SSM on 19 March 2013.[36][37] The Parliament voted in favour of the SSM Regulations on 12 September 2013,[32] and the Council of the European Union gave their approval on 15 October 2013.[33] The regulation set 4 November 2014 as the date when the ECB was to begin its supervisory role.[34]

Single Resolution Mechanism[edit]

Signatories of the Agreement on the transfer and mutualisation of contributions to the Single Resolution Fund

The Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) is a proposed pillar that would centrally implement the common rulebook's Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive in participating Member States, and would establish a Single Resolution Fund (SRF) to finance their restructuring.[38]

The SRM would let troubled banks operating under the SSM be restructured with a variety of tools including bailout funds from the centralised SRF, valued at 1% of covered deposits of all credit institutions authorised in all the participating member states (estimated at around 55 billion euros), which would be filled with contributions by participating banks during an eight-year establishment phase.[39][40][41] This would help to alleviate the impact of failing banks on the sovereign debt of individual states.[38][42][43] The SRM would also handle the winding down of non-viable banks. The Single Resolution Board would be directly responsible for the resolution of significant banks under ECB supervision, while national authorities would take the lead in smaller banks.[40]

Like the SSM, the SRM Regulation will cover all banks in the eurozone, with other states eligible to join.[40] The text of the Regulation approved by Parliament stipulates that all states participating in the SSM, including those non-eurozone states with a "close cooperation" agreement, will automatically be participants in the SRM.[44]

The SRM is to be enacted through a Regulation and an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) titled:

  • Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing uniform rules and a uniform procedure for the resolution of credit institutions and certain investment firms in the framework of a Single Resolution Mechanism and a Single Bank Resolution Fund and amending Regulation (EU) No 1093/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council[44][45]
  • Agreement on the transfer and mutualisation of contributions to the Single Resolution Fund.[46]

The proposed Regulation was put forward by the European Commission in July 2013.[38] The Parliament and the Council of the European Union reached an agreement on the Regulation on 20 March 2014.[47] The European Parliament approved the Regulation on 15 April,[41][48] and the Council followed suit on 14 July 2014,[49] leading to its entry into force on 19 August 2014.[50]

The Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) was signed by 26 EU member states on 21 May 2014, remaining open to accession by the remaining EU members Sweden and the United Kingdom.[39][48][51] Its entry into force was conditional on the Agreement being ratified by states representing 90% of the weighted vote of SSM and SRM participating states.[39] This was achieved on 30 November 2015, when all participating states apart from Greece and Luxembourg had ratified.[52][53] Greece ratified on 7 December.[2] The agreement entered into force on 1 January 2016 for SSM and SRM participating states.[39] Luxembourg subsequently ratified on 11 January 2016.

Participation[edit]

The 19 eurozone member states participate automatically in the SSM and SRM.[54] Since the EU treaties only give the ECB jurisdiction over eurozone states, legally it cannot enforce measures in non-eurozone states. This would prevent the ECB from effectively carrying out its supervisory role in these states. Under the European Treaties, non-eurozone countries do not have the right to vote in the ECB's Governing Council and in return are not bound by the ECB's decisions. Non-eurozone countries cannot become full members of the SSM and SRM in the sense of having the same rights and obligations as eurozone members. However, non-eurozone EU member states can enter into a "close cooperation agreement" on the SSM with the ECB. The banks in that country are then supervised by the ECB and the country gains a seat in the ECB's Supervisory Board. It would allow banks in that country to be supervised by the ECB provided that they have mechanisms in place to make ECB measures binding upon national authorities. A "close cooperation" agreement can be ended by the ECB or by the participating non-eurozone member state.[32] Participating non-eurozone states will also gain a seat on the ECB's Supervisory Board.[33] The text of the SRM stipulates that all states participating in the SSM, including those non-eurozone states with a "close cooperation" agreement, will automatically be participants in the SRM.[44]

The first request to enter into "close cooperation" was made by Bulgaria on 18 July 2018.[55]

The Danish government announced in April 2015 its intention to join the banking union.[56] Although the justice ministry found that the move did not entail any transfer of sovereignty and thus would not automatically require a referendum, the Danish People's Party, Red Green Alliance and Liberal Alliance oppose joining the banking union and collectively the three won enough seats in the subsequent June 2015 election to prevent parliament from joining without the approval through a referendum.[57] As of July 2017, Denmark is studying joining, with a decision expected in the fall of 2019.[58]

Bulgaria's Finance Minister, Vladislav Goranov, stated in July 2017 that his country would not participate prior to euro adoption.[59] However, after pressure from the ECB to begin participating in the Banking Union prior to joining the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, Goranov said in June 2018 that Bulgaria would join the Banking Union within a year.[60] Bulgaria sent a letter to the Eurogroup in July 2018 on its desire to participate in ERM II, and commitment to enter into a "close cooperation" agreement with the Banking Union.[61][62]

Sweden's Financial Markets Minister Per Bolund has said that the country is conducting a study on joining, which is planned to be completed by 2019.[63][64]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]