2012-10-30 09:54

A monumental project, but not an end to the crisis

Eurozone leaders held a summit last week that was important, but not for the reasons you might think. What has been decided will change the future of Europe. The banking union is a tool so powerful that it could unite the core of the EU. But it will also separate it from the rest. It is more useful to think of the banking union as a long-term political project than as a tool of crisis resolution. Depending on your view, it can be monumental or irrelevant.


The decision taken at the summit was to agree a firm timetable for the set-up and the legal foundations of a single supervisory mechanism – a new eurozone bank regulator within the European Central Bank. It will be the first of several steps towards a full banking union – a process that will take many years to complete. The SSM will ultimately encompass all 6,000 eurozone banks. It may not supervise each directly but it can seize control when it wants to. The set-up of the SSM will be followed by a common bank recapitalisation policy and fund, a single resolution mechanism and, ultimately, a single deposit insurance scheme. The economic functions of resolution, recapitalisation and deposit insurance can be pooled in different ways, in different institutions. The final shape is as yet uncertain. But it is going to happen.


Angela Merkel, German chancellor, was right when she said you could not have the SSM up and running by January 2013. A complete banking union is hugely complex and takes time. Important aspects of the project will require a change in the European treaties. Britain and others with no ambitions to join the eurozone will not sign up. It would be wrong to think of banking union as an extension of the single market. It is best to think of it as part of the hard-wiring of a monetary union.

德国总理安格拉?默克尔(Angela Merkel)曾表示,该机制不可能在2013年1月之前建立并运转。这种说法没错。全面的银行业联盟极为复杂,它不会一蹴而就。要完成该项目的某些重要条款,就需要对欧洲条约做出修改,而无意加入欧元区的英国和其他国家将不会赞同修改。认为银行业联盟是单一市场延伸的看法将是错误的。我们最好将其视为构建货币联盟的一部分。

The banking union destroys two illusions that accompanied the creation of the euro – one held in the eurozone itself, one outside. The first was that a minimalist monetary union would be sustainable. The outsiders succumbed to the illusion of a false menu choice: the ability to pick and choose areas of European integration to take part in. It turned out that remaining inside the EU but outside the eurozone was still not a sustainable biosphere.


As time goes on, the eurozone will usurp the EU. It will have its own banking union, its own budget, its own political union and, ultimately, its own single market – something that is not legally possible now. The fundamental reason why Britain is now headed for a probable exit, or at least for marginalisation, is not a eurosceptic prime minister but the decision taken 15 years ago not to join the euro.


The banking union and its various cousins constitute the biggest act of political integration in Europe since the creation of the European Economic Community 55 years ago.

创建银行业联盟及其各式姊妹联盟,成为自55年前欧洲经济共同体(European Economic Community)成立以来欧洲政治一体化的最重要举措。

I believe that they will be even bigger than the euro itself because they are a significant encroachment on national sovereignty on several levels.


While the combination of banking, fiscal and economic union, if done properly, would create a minimally sufficient institutional set-up for a sustainable monetary union, there is a big snag: the monetary union might blow up well before the new mechanisms kick in. The banking union, as currently constructed, will not help us in the current crisis.


Many commentators made two mistaken assumptions. The first was that the SSM would be operational from January. The second was that this would trigger an automatic change in the existing bank rescue programme for Spain. It now appears that the SSM will begin work in the second half of 2013. Eurozone leaders have reaffirmed that the operational start of the SSM would allow the European Stability Mechanism to recapitalise banks directly without burdening member states.

很多评论人士提出了两个错误假设。第一,该机制将从明年1月起施行。第二个是它将引发现有的西班牙银行救助计划自动变更。目前看来,该机制似乎会在2013年下半年启动。欧元区领导人已重申,该机制的开始运转将使得欧元区稳定机制(European Stability Mechanism)在不给成员国造成负担的情况下直接对银行进行资本重组。