Thursday, November 20, 2014

Europe’s Necessary Union

BRUSSELS – The consequences of Europe’s debt crisis are all too present throughout much of the European Union, as distressed economies attempt to stabilize and grow at the same time. Notwithstanding the important decisions taken over the last couple of years, the reality is that we need to do more to tackle the challenges facing the eurozone.

Reform and consolidation measures are being implemented across the EU. Joint financial backstops have been put in place. And the European Central Bank has consistently shown that it will stand by the euro. Yet experts and partners often underestimate our determination.

All of the steps taken so far have resulted in more European integration, not less. It is true that sometimes decision-making in our democratic system takes time. But do not misjudge us: the negotiations are about the arrangements, not about the final outcome. There is sufficient political will in the EU to do whatever is necessary to protect the euro, because the future of the single currency will determine that of European integration.

The additional measures that Europe needs must be firmly rooted in a commitment to deeper integration. High levels of sovereign debt, together with the behavior of parts of the financial sector, have amplified the crisis in the eurozone and raised important issues of confidence that now require a systemic answer.

That is why we must complete the unfinished business of economic and monetary union – and why the European Commission has long argued for the creation of a banking union as an indispensable step toward that goal. The Commission’s upcoming proposals are part of a broader package leading to economic, fiscal, and political union that will redefine the boundaries of European integration.

The crisis has starkly revealed the insufficiencies of existing banking supervision. We must go beyond cooperation and establish an EU-wide supervisory authority, particularly in the eurozone. The link between sovereign debt and bank debt has to be broken once and for all. We must end the vicious circle whereby the use of taxpayers’ funds – more than €4.5 trillion ($5.7 trillion) so far – to rescue banks weakens governments’ budgets, while increasingly risk-averse banks stop lending to businesses that need funds, undermining the economy further.

Europe can stop this negative dynamic now with bold action. A single rulebook for financial services is being put in place for the single market. Building on this, a single European banking-supervision authority would open the way to direct recapitalization of banks through the European Stability Mechanism, as well as to common deposit insurance and a single resolution framework.

On September 12, the Commission will present its proposals for a Single Banking Supervisory Mechanism based on three key principles:

Single supervision: Within the eurozone, coordination between national supervisory bodies is no longer enough. Risks that emerge in one country can affect the entire currency area. Common banking supervision is needed for strengthening confidence among countries using common financial backstops.

Credibility: The eurozone’s new banking-supervision mechanism will have the ECB at its heart. The choice of tasks to be entrusted to the ECB will ensure rigorous, high-quality, and equal prudential supervision of eurozone banks, thereby contributing decisively to maintaining confidence between the banks – and thus increasing financial stability throughout the eurozone. Close cooperation with national supervisors will be built into the framework.

The ECB’s supervisory role will be fully separated from its monetary-policy responsibilities. In parallel, the European Banking Authority will continue to perform its existing tasks, namely developing the single rulebook for the entire single market and ensuring convergent supervisory practice throughout the EU.

Broad coverage: All banks in the eurozone will be covered by the new European supervisory system. And we will need to bridge the gap between eurozone members and EU members that remain outside the monetary union, some of which may want to participate in the new supervisory mechanisms.

The road that we have decided to follow will allow for swift action. The Single Banking Supervisory Mechanism does not require a treaty change and should be in place by January 2013.

Common and more integrated supervision is the first step towards a banking union. Next, the Commission will build on our current proposals for deposit-guarantee schemes and bank resolution mechanisms to move toward a single resolution fund and a single resolution authority. Once these proposals are implemented, the banking union will be complete.

Establishing a banking union by 2013 will not give Europe a magic wand with which to wave away the economic crisis overnight; but it is a major and crucial step to restoring the confidence of Europe’s citizens, international partners, and investors. It will ensure financial stability, increase transparency, make the banking sector accountable, and protect taxpayers’ money.

Moreover, it is the start of something much bigger. Once again, I would like to stress that the eurozone is drawing lessons from the past and defining a way forward, not backwards, in terms of integration. That is good news not only for the euro, but also for the global economy.

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    1. CommentedJohn Brian Shannon

      José Manuel Barroso paints a very reassuring picture of the future of European stability.

      It is easy to feel positive about the long-term (and continuing) political and economic success of Europe and the Eurozone countries, what remains to be seen is how quickly they can rebound from the present problems.

      Of course many of us would like the plans discussed in the article to come to fruition today -- if not sooner. But we also realize that anything worth doing at all, it is worth doing right.

      The sooner mutualized national debt assurance, a single financial services rulebook and fiscal and monetary union occurs, the sooner the economic recovery will happen.

      Since the end of WWII, the European success story continues and looking back, every test provided an opportunity to either fail or succeed. Thus far, it has been success built upon success -- let us hope that will continue to be the case.

      It's not just about Europe anymore, as increasingly, Europe's success is our success, wherever we may be in the world.

      John Brian Shannon

    2. CommentedAndré Rebentisch

      What gets discussed here by the President is beyond the purvue of the European Commission. The question arises why Barroso does not do more within the community method framework, here the Commission enjoys a prerogative of legislative initiative. I am still waiting for a shift to Ordnungspolitik.

    3. CommentedPaul A. Myers

      The high levels of sovereign debt will drive ever deeper European integration because at each step of the process integration is cheaper than some sort of default.

      Financial integration can stave off default, but it cannot restart significant growth. So somewhere up ahead public dissatisfaction with zero growth has to lead to structural reform within the context of increasing integration.

      The benefits of integration will flow to those countries that restructure to harvest the benefits. Undoubtedly this will be politically uncomfortable.

    4. CommentedMark Pitts

      Please clarify the issue of the 4.5 trillion euros used to rescue European banks:

      How much of the money was repaid by the banks?

      Of the part that was repaid, did the taxpayers gain or lose on the transaction?

      Of the part not repaid, do taxpayers hold collateral? Are taxpayers likely to be repaid in the future?

      (I don’t know the answers to these questions, that’s why I am asking.)

    5. CommentedRoman Bleifer

      Strengthening of European integration (including the creation of monetary and fiscal union), move to a confederal structure - it is the only way to keep Europe as one of the world's leading economic and political centers. Otherwise, Europe will become a dull province of the 21st century ( ). Only the strengthening of European integration is extremely slow, if anything goes. I doubt that the global crisis will give a lot of time.

    6. CommentedAlexandros Liakopoulos

      @Marc Pitts Have you not read the article??? This article, right here, Mr Baroso's article! Have you not read it?

      I am amazed. Which part of Mr Baroso's statement - as follows - is not clear enough??!!! He writes:

      "We must end the vicious circle whereby the use of taxpayers’ funds – more than €4.5 trillion ($5.7 trillion) so far – to rescue banks weakens governments’ budgets, while increasingly risk-averse banks stop lending to businesses that need funds, undermining the economy further."

        CommentedMark Pitts

        I was just asking for a reference so that I can read more and understand the situation better.

    7. CommentedZsolt Hermann

      There is no question about the need of full integration,deeper and mutual cooperation at every level of life not only in Europe but all over the world since simply we evolved into a global, integral and fully interdependent human network which we have to adapt to.
      But at the moment there is no democratic process, the process that is going on and is proposed is not democratic or free at all, it is simply a process to provide the present status quo safeguards, to continue the present excessive overproduction/over consumption machinery at all cost, totally regardless of the actual people of the actual countries.
      So far it has been most obvious in the case of Greece where all the decisions, packages are driven through at a high level, without any participation of the actual nation, making their lives more and more difficult at every turn.
      And the same fate awaits Spain and Italy, and then later on all the other members including Germany since the crisis does not stop as we are not solving it but deepening it by wasting all the resources on institutions and ideas that themselves are causing the problem. Instead of revealing and solving the disease all our attempts are aimed at hiding and maintaining it.
      Until we understand the reasons why we are in a crisis, until we change ourselves and adapt to the natural system around us and start living within our necessities and resources there is no point in talking about integration, since we are like a group of thieves who join forces in order to be capable of stealing more effectively.
      Integration has to go hand in hand with changing the foundation on we live our lives, we relate to each other.
      We have run out of the time where half measures could succeed, we are surrounded by unbending laws we have to follow.

    8. CommentedAlexandros Liakopoulos

      4,5 trillion euros given to the banks from the European public cashiers... and we still talk about a "crisis"? What crisis? For who is this a critical situation? For Banks it was, nowadays it is not any more, due to people's money. And ot only that, they also defend their position in proposing the neoliberal arrangements they were always targetting, exactly on the very fact the people were obliged to buy their own deficits and to legalise scams of the past. Currently, they seem quite anxious to prove their predominant role on the European Institutional Map, through a Banking Union with no political counterpart. And the President of the European Commission backs them up in their proposals. Pffff... well, maybe banksters are right and there is a "crisis" at the economic field. However, if one examines the data of the "crisis" so far, if he/she analyzes the specific figures and the amounts involved, the direction of the capitalo flow and the ongoing neoliberal transformation of the EU's Social Model, one can come up with a concrete idea about the New Banksters Union of the European Continent... whether Germany will manage to balance this tension without destroying the whole of the project due to the well-known german reflexes on external pressures, is a an active bet on which the Peace and Prosperity of the whole continent is linked... and another bet is the reflexes of the European People: their response to the ongoing development of the Pan-European Banking Scam Operration which is described as "crisis", will very much form the final outcome of the process... Mr Baroso, Mr Draghi and Mrs Merkel, as also all other European Leaders (!) should bear in mind that ultimate judge of their actions are their people, as far as democracy still applies in EU...

        CommentedMark Pitts

        @Alexandros, Could you provide a reference for the amount given to European banks from public funds? Thanks.

    9. CommentedFrank O'Callaghan

      This is part of the mechanism that should have existed before the single currency. It's absence was a gift to speculators. The current situation is merely a way of allowing private bondholders to make good on their lost bets at the expense of the European citizen.

      A progressive redistribution of wealth in the egalitarian direction within Europe, together with distribution of work and power is the only way to ensure a growing economy.

      The utilisation of this crisis to centralise power at the undemocratic core is the death knell of a better system. The move away from the social solidarity of the European model is an injection of instability. Modes of production in the global economy make increasing wealth easily achievable. The difficulty is it's distribution. Our 'fictionalisation' of finance is the greatest obstacle.

        CommentedMark Pitts

        @Aldo - I certainly agree with your conjecture that banks have to take responsibility for their actions. However, in advocating more regulation, you ignore two important points:

        Through government regulations, banks are more or less forced to buy government debt. Thus, in many ways their “irresponsible” actions were dictated by the state.

        In advocating more regulation, one argues for more decision-making power to the government. But governmental financial mismanagement is the reason many banks are having problems.

        It’s hard to argue that government is a better financial manager than the private sector. I wouldn't trust the politicians with my savings.

        CommentedAldo Dias

        Mark Pitts - Of course you can, its called the free market. Losses are as important as profits, they ensure responsibility and adequate risk. The debt stems from businesses deals whereby the lending party calculated the risk of default of the borrowing party and established a correspondent interest rate. Shared responsibility is the cause of the problem and the rule of the game.

        Further, you seem to ignore or overlook the dynamic that the institutional crisis took on, whereby credit rating agencies where not only commenting on current conditions but also downgrading half the eurozone at a time for the stated reason of influencing impending EU summits. Speculation is not something that is born out of left-wing people's ignorance of or despise for wall street jargon. It exists now as it did in the time of the european exchange rate mechanism, and like then it was born out of institutional weakness and confusion and not underlying economic unbalances. This time around, however, there is clearly an added institutional weakness, which is the financial deregulation which led us to this, which persists unchanged and unfettered despite massive, transcontinental public outcry, and (seemingly) a consensus of the main, if not all, political parties.

        CommentedMark Pitts

        The primary loss that private bond holders suffered was by "betting" that the governments would repay what they borrowed. You cannot blame investors because the governments mismanaged their finances.