Saturday, August 30, 2014
8

La defectuosa unión bancaria europea

PARÍS – La Unión Europea es ahora la orgullosa titular de un premio Nobel de la Paz. Cuando la elección recayó en Barack Obama hace tres años, el Comité Noruego del Nobel fue criticado por haber concedido esa distinción a alguien cuyos logros estaban aún por ver. El Comité se tomó a pecho la crítica y esta vez ha premiado a una institución con un pasado brillante, pero un futuro cubierto de nubarrones.

La zona del euro es diferente de la UE, desde luego, pero es la empresa más ambiciosa de la Unión hasta la fecha y sigue esforzándose para equiparse con las estructuras necesarias a fin de reforzar una unión monetaria. Una política fiscal común sigue siendo un sueño lejano, como también una unión política auténtica.

Pero las autoridades de Europa afirman seguir logrando avances hacia una supuesta “unión bancaria”, que significa una supervisión bancaria colectiva y no una fusión de los propios bancos. En septiembre, la Comisión Europea anunció un plan para hacer del Banco Central Europeo el supervisor de los 6.000 bancos de Europa.

La reacción entre políticos nacionales, bancos centrales y los propios bancos no fue universalmente favorable. Los alemanes quieren que el BCE se centre sólo en grandes bancos sistémicos y deje los pequeños bancos de ahorro (como los que invirtieron  intensamente en las hipotecas de gran riesgo) a cargo de las autoridades nacionales. El Reino Unido y Suecia sostienen que no pueden quedar sometidos a un banco central del que son, en el mejor de los casos, miembros semiseparados.

Existe una aceptación generalizada de un supervisor bancario paneuropeo, sobre todo porque la Autoridad Bancaria Europea (el organismo regulador de la banca de la UE) demostró ser deficiente al llevar a cabo las pruebas de resistencia: las primeras pruebas fueron tan deficientes, que incluso los bancos de ahorro de España, ahora en quiebra, pudieron aprobarlas con la máxima calificación. Europa debe romper el círculo vicioso que vincula a prestatarios soberanos con bancos que están obligados –o al menos se los alienta– a comprar sus bonos, lo que, a su vez, proporciona la financiación para los rescates de los bancos.

Pero el método elegido por la Comisión para aplicar una unión bancaria es fatalmente defectuoso. Además, conforme a una opinión filtrada del jefe de los asesores jurídicos del Consejo de la UE, la reforma propuesta es ilegal, porque, según el Financial Times (el que recibió la filtración), rebasa “las competencias permitidas por la legislación para cambiar las normas de gobierno del Banco Central Europeo”.

A lo largo de toda la crisis, los dirigentes europeos han intentado reaccionar ante las lagunas de la unión monetaria sin proponer un nuevo tratado, porque temen que cualquier nuevo tratado que propusiera más centralización de la autoridad en Bruselas fuese rechazado, ya fuera por los parlamentos nacionales o por los votantes en un referéndum. Así, pues, han intentado actuar mediante un acuerdo intergubernamental o recurriendo a las disposiciones del tratado vigente.

En el caso de la unión bancaria, se proponen recurrir al apartado 6 del artículo 127 del Tratado de Lisboa, que permite al Consejo Europeo autorizar al BCE para desempeñar funciones específicas en materia de “políticas relativas a la supervisión cautelar” de ciertas entidades financieras de la Unión. Se trata de un fundamento jurídico endeble para establecer un supervisor paneuropeo con el cometido directo de abordar la situación de las entidades particulares y está claro que no se lo concibió para ese fin. De hecho, Alemania aceptó esa redacción sólo con la condición de que el BCE no podría ser un supervisor directo.

Las consecuencias de elegir ese rumbo inadecuado, pero conveniente, son graves. Para empezar, no se puede recurrir al tratado vigente para crear un único organismo con facultades decisorias, lo que dejaría una difícil interfaz entre el BCE y las autoridades nacionales. Tampoco se puede recurrir a él para establecer un plan europeo de protección de depósitos, que probablemente sea la necesidad más urgente, para poner freno a las salidas de capitales de los bancos de la Europa meridional.

Además, habrá posibles consecuencias peligrosas para el propio BCE. El recurso a la cláusula del Tratado de Lisboa significa que se le deben conceder cometidos suplementarios, pero es imposible crear una entidad supervisora de los bancos distinta dentro de él, como se ha hecho en Francia, por ejemplo, con la Autoridad de Control Cautelar o en el Reino Unido con la nueva Autoridad Reguladora Cautelar, que tiene su propio Consejo de Gobierno y disposiciones de rendición de cuentas dentro del Banco de Inglaterra.

La importancia de esas estructuras es la de que protegen la independencia de la política monetaria del banco central contra la corrupción mediante los requisitos en materia de rendición de cuentas que acompañan inevitablemente a la supervisión bancaria. Como las decisiones de los supervisores afectan a los derechos de propiedad de las personas –y sus acciones u omisiones pueden poner a los contribuyentes en la difícil tesitura de tener que rescatar a bancos– los gobiernos, los parlamentos y los tribunales han de ejercer una vigilancia muy estricta.

Ésa es la razón por la que el Bundesbank de Alemania, que siempre fue muy celoso de su independencia en materia de política monetaria, se ha encontrado una vez más en el bando de los que se oponen a la propuesta que nos ocupa, al expresar poderosas dudas sobre el rumbo que la Comisión se propone seguir. Esta vez está en lo cierto.

Además, hay otras cuestiones graves. Según el modelo de la Comisión, la Autoridad Bancaria Europea seguirá en pie y se le ha encargado que prepare un único reglamento de organización interna para los 27 Estados miembros de la UE, pero, si bien lleva a cabo su labor conforme al sistema normal de votación por mayoría cualificada, los 17 países de la zona del euro tendrán un solo supervisor, por lo que contarán con un voto en bloque. La Comisión está intentando encontrar formas de proteger los derechos de los países que no forman parte de la zona del euro, pero la propia complejidad de lo que se propone revela lo inadecuado que es el plan.

A los no europeos, en particular, puede parecerles todo el asunto impenetrablemente abstruso, pero ilustra una cuestión sencilla: Europa está intentando lograr un modelo más federal que aborde las deficiencias reveladas por la crisis de la zona del euro, pero está hacíéndolo sin atender la necesidad crucial de que vaya acompañada en ese proceso por sus ciudadanos. De hecho, los mecanismos que la UE está adoptando están concebidos específicamente para no tener que consultarlos.

La propuesta creación de una unión bancaria revela ese defecto fundamental en el núcleo del proyecto europeo actual. Resulta difícil ser optimista sobre el éxito de una iniciativa basada en fundamentos jurídicos tan endebles y carente de legitimidad democrática. Los bancos de Europa y sus clientes merecen algo mejor.

Traducido del inglés por Carlos Manzano.

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  1. CommentedJoshua Ioji Konov

    Mr. Davies, your article is pretty good in showing the messy picture of the EU being as perplexing as it possibly could be. Adding to it, is the stubborn ideological attitude of a trickle-down economic approach engraved in the EU policies that puts debt and fiscal shortages above growth and prosperity..., bureaucracy above free entrepreneurship, big business above medium and small business.., I guess, how bad the economy in the EU should go down to trigger some adequate response.., it happened in China, the US and now Japan..., not unity would save the EU but diversity in business and market activities..., the large transnational corporations that have taken over from finances to manufacturing and retail are not the solution for a better future and economic development, but the small to medium businesses and investors are, which, however, are not promoted and empowered by the EU policies,
    Sincerely,
    Joshua Ioji Konov

  2. CommentedJohn Brian Shannon

    Hi Howard,

    I do appreciate how clearly you have laid out the present European situation although I respectfully disagree with some of your conclusions.

    Europe may indeed be responding "to the weaknesses revealed by the eurozone crisis" but it is inevitable that these measures would have been implemented at some point. The present situation has merely accelerated the timeline.

    In a Western context, the drive by purist democratic politicians to exuviate visionaries and populists from the political scene has resulted in a situation whereby people with visionary ideas and populist support are missing from this equation. And so are their great accomplishments.

    After all, Hitler was a populist. I get that, no one wants that again.

    Mind you, Winston Churchill was a populist leader and without him, Great Britain would have ceased to exist.

    The reason that some logical and much-needed initiatives are floundering due to lack of voter support, is because there are no great visionary and or populist politicians out there selling those initiatives to the masses -- the present (excellent) crop of leaders too devoted to the perfection of democracy to involve themselves in such vociferous and unseemly behavior.

    The skill-set of each is radically different.

    As raucous as a salesman's voice may sound, they are required in order for transactions to be successfully concluded. Leaving visionaries and populist politicians out of European politics has brought us to where we are now.

    Great administrators are not visionaries and conversely, great visionaries are deeply-flawed administrators -- often the worst on the planet. Nevertheless, for best results -- add both to the mix. Democracy is a messy business, isn't it?

    "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." - Sir Winston Churchill

    Cheers, JBS



  3. CommentedMarten Klein

    The Commission proposes, not the member states. So the ball is in the Court of Mr.Barnier who four years later presents his regulatory package. More to come, for sure. Not only Art 127 but also all other canons get fired. I wish he were an ordoliberal.

  4. CommentedJ St. Clair

    ' to stem the outflow of deposits from southern European banks.".....how many banks does this equate to....out of the 6,000

  5. Commentedde Lafayette

    From Charlemagne of the Economist 22/09/2012 edition: {The euro zone is heading towards the worst of both worlds—nation-states feel violated by Brussels’s ever-expanding controls, even as the European level remains too weak and opaque to have an impact or win popular allegiance. A better approach might be to set aside labels and think of a narrow set of core functions that need to be deeply integrated. A coherent banking union makes sense, as do some joint bonds. Germany rejects mutualisation of debt on the grounds that not even America expects states to guarantee each other’s debt. Yet America has federal bonds, backed by federal taxes, which in turn provide a safe asset for all banks to hold. American states go bankrupt, as do lots of banks. Call it what you want; integration, centralisation, federation, confederation—the objective should be to stabilise the system sufficiently to allow badly managed banks and states to go bust safely.}

    It is not obvious that the EZ is "heading towards the worst of both worlds". The Economist is indulging in "scare journalism" as it has often a wont to do.

    But the rest of the statement rings true. The foundation of a Lender of Last Resort to deal with circumstances where member states spend beyond their means of either repayment or even debt-maintenance must be found. That means both equal portions of regulatory oversight and the ability to make monetary policy - both of which need not be housed in the same place, but must exist tangibly somewhere.

    The former needs real teeth to prevent the present circumstance from repeating itself. The latter requires real Central Bank leadership who answers to a Central Authority duly elected by the EZ-member state electors, who in turn must relegate to that authority the control of monetary policy.

    Maybe the Two-speed Europe is, after all, the best alternative. Those not in Euro-Zone should perhaps content themselves as on-lookers to main game.

    One for all and all for one.

  6. Commentedde Lafayette

    Given the nearly calamitous use of "national referendums" in the past by the EU, it is easily understandable why its politicians want to avoid them in this particular case.

    And yet, given the crisis, something must be done to enforce oversight upon, at lease, EuroZone banks. So, rickety as it may appear, this present solution may be the only one that is feasible at the moment.

    When it could have done so, before the present crisis, Europe did not go far enough in developing a much needed central government. The European Commission is an unelected body, after all. Given the present economic turmoil in Europe, it is presently out of the question to ask Europeans to elect, for instance, an EU President who would establish a Cabinet to replace the Commission.

    This mistake was made out of shortsightedness of the EU leadership at the time but also, it may be argued, the inability of that leadership to surrender is sovereign authority to a European president. After all, that would relegate national leadership to a “governorship” status as exists in the US. Which is tantamount to a degrading of prestige.

    It will likely take, therefore, a different political class to take the leap forward towards creating an EU common leadership that would constitute the third leg in a tripartite governance of the EU consisting of an Executive, a Legislative and a Judicial institution (the latter two already extant).

    That class, however, will be many years in the making. It does not exist today.

  7. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    I think the last part of the article tells all:
    "...Non-Europeans, in particular, may find the entire topic impenetrably abstruse. But it illustrates a simple point: Europe is trying to achieve a stronger federal model that responds to the weaknesses revealed by the eurozone crisis. But it is doing so without addressing the crucial need to bring its citizens along. Indeed, the devices that the EU is adopting are designed specifically to avoid having to consult them.
    The proposed construction of a banking union reveals this fundamental flaw at the heart of the European project today. It is difficult to be optimistic about the success of an initiative built on such flimsy legal foundations, and lacking democratic legitimacy. Europe’s banks and their customers deserve better..."
    It is similar to renovating a house which started to be dangerous to live in, as it started to collapse.
    The wise renovation would start with the foundations, then the walls, the inside of the house and finish with the paining, decorating.
    The European Union in the Eurozone, and in fact the whole global economy tries to renovate, or maintain the other way around, they thing the process can start with painting, decorating and the rest can wait or it is not important.
    First of all the role of the financial institutions is way overrated, they have become the inflated bubble controlling everything, being the measuring stick for global health, while banks should simply remain in an assisting role for a natural trade relationship in between individuals and nations.
    But of course the expansive, constant quantitative growth economy requires the constant debt taking, going beyond one's means, thus the banks became the false pillars of our lives.
    At the same time the whole of humanity evolved into a global, interconnected network, where every decision and action affects even the furthest part of the network, thus we need to learn a completely new way of interaction in order to secure the well being of the whole interdependent system we live on.
    Thus in short instead of a superfluous, and futile banking union nations, not only in Europe but all over the globe would need to start building a new structure based on mutual responsibility, consideration and full integration with supra national democratic control, while the engine of this new structure has to be a natural necessity and available resource based economy and trade.
    Since we have already almost completely exhausted the natural and human resources, thus we do not have ore time to play games, or pretend we are doing something. We have to get down to the basics and start building, adapting ourselves to the new evolutionary conditions we find ourselves in.

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