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Schaeuble may compromise on bank bailout

Tuesday, February 11 16:12:29

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has signalled a readiness to compromise on the contours of a European fund to shut down troubled banks following sharp criticism from the European Parliament.

In an interview with Reuters, Schaeuble stuck to his long-standing position that changes to the EU treaty were necessary if the bloc was to move beyond the inter-governmental approach to "banking union" agreed by European finance ministers in December.

But he said he was ready to talk about changes to that deal, which European Parliament President Martin Schulz has promised to reject in its current form. Under EU rules, the parliament must approve the agreement for it to take effect.

"It can't be that one side says it must be done their way or not at all. Europe doesn't work like that," Schaeuble said.

"At the moment, there is an intense discussion about the financial framework of the resolution fund and the timeframe for building it up. I'm sure we can reach an agreement on this."

The deal clinched late last year after months of difficult negotations foresees the creation of a 55 billion euro resolution fund, financed by a levy on banks, that would be built up over a period of 10 years.

But burden sharing between European member states will be minimal. Germany insisted that for the coming decade, countries themselves should be accountable for the costs of winding down their banks, once bank creditors and investors have taken a hit.

At the height of the euro zone's crisis, stricken banks pushed countries like Ireland and Cyprus to the brink of bankruptcy.

Europe's banking union project was designed to break this so-called "doom loop" between banks and sovereigns, although critics say the deal clinched in December falls short.

Negotiations between the European Parliament, member states and the European Commission began last month. A compromise on the bank plan must be found by early April, or the project risks being delayed by up to a year while a new Parliament and Commission settles in.

In the interview, Schaeuble lauded the progress in bail-out countries like Ireland, Spain and Portugal, and said there were no other euro members that might need a rescue in the foreseeable future.

For much of last year, Slovenia was seen as a potential candidate for a bailout, but it announced in December that it could raise the 4.8 billion euros needed to keep its banks afloat without external help.

"All the recent reports show that Slovenia does not need a programme," Schaeuble said.