Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Europe’s banking union: Till default do us part

By The Economist

A half-hearted banking union raises more risks than it solves

PENNY-PINCHING lovers can always turn to Las Vegas, where wedding-chapel packages start at just a couple of hundred dollars (wedding music included, rose bouquets extra) and annulments are fast and cheap. The architects of the euro zone’s banking union are planning something similarly cut-price.
Almost a year ago, as the euro crisis raged, Europe’s leaders boldly pledged a union to break the dangerous link between indebted governments and ailing banking systems, where the troubles of one threatened to pull down the other. Yet the agreement that seems likely to emerge from a summit later this month will be one that does little to weaken this vicious link. If anything it may increase risks to stability instead of reducing them.

Almost everyone involved agrees that in theory a banking union ought to have three legs. The first is a single supervisor to write common rules and to enforce them uniformly. Next are the powers to “resolve” failed banks, which is a polite term for deciding who takes a hit; these powers also require a pot of money (or at least a promise to pay) to clean up the mess left by bust lenders and to inject capital into those that can get back on their feet. The third leg is a credible euro-wide guarantee on deposits to reassure savers that a euro in an Italian or Spanish bank is just as safe as one in a German or Dutch bank. National insurance schemes offer scant reassurance to savers when sovereigns are wobbly and insured deposits make up a big chunk of annual GDP (see chart).

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