Europeans open marathon talks on bank rescues

Associated Press
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Greece's Finance Minister Ioannis Stournaras, right, talks with EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn at the start of an Ecofin meeting at the European Council building in Brussels, Tuesday Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

BRUSSELS (AP) — Finance ministers of the European Union on Tuesday held marathon talks on how to create a central agency that can rescue banks without using taxpayer money.

One major hitch holding up agreement has been how to finance a fund for banks that are in trouble or are insolvent. Germany has wanted to coordinate efforts by national authorities; the French have been seeking a single EU-wide rescue fund.

Joerg Asmussen, an executive board member at the European Central Bank, said Tuesday that recent negotiations have narrowed differences. But he said he didn't expect an agreement during the meeting of the 28-nation trade bloc's ministers.

Lithuania's finance minister, Rimantas Sadzius, who was chairing the gathering, was more bullish. At the start of the talks, which were expected to last 18 hours or more, he said there were "strong chances" of a deal by the end of the day.

The unified banking regulations, which would govern banks in the 17 countries using the euro currency and any other EU members that opt in, are designed to spare national governments from having to raid public coffers to keep badly-run banks afloat. The rescue fund would be financed by a levy on banks, and not public money.

The goals are "financial stability in our banks and making sure the taxpayer doesn't have to put in more money every time as soon as a bank is in trouble," said Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

Pierre Moscovici, France's finance minister, acknowledged the issues still to be resolved were difficult. But he said he was hoping for a broad-brush "political agreement" Tuesday even if he and the other ministers have to return to Brussels next week to fill in some blanks or haggle over fine print.

"We have a lot of work to do today. It will be a long day, with complex problems still to be resolved, clarifications to be made," said Moscovici. "But I desire that we leave each other tonight with an accord clearly mapped out, and the certainty, the conviction that we will get there."

EU leaders want to reach agreement on centralizing banking controls by the end of this year so they can be enacted into law by the current European Parliament, and because they would put teeth into the "stress test" examinations that European banks will be subject to in 2014.


McHugh reported from Frankfurt, Germany.