European finance ministers have met in Brussels to try to strike a deal on so-called bank capital cushions.
EU states continue to remain deeply divided on how much money Europe’s financial institutions should set aside to cover risk. One group, led by France and Italy, have called for uniform capitalisation ratios across the bloc. But Britain and Sweden want more freedom to enforce stricter bank buffers.
Sweden’s finance minister Anders Borg said: “Either we have strong banks or the taxpayers pay the risk, and I prefer to have strong capital in the banks than to take risks with the taxpayers.”
One country desperately seeking a deal on capital buffers is Spain. Earlier this week 11 Spanish banks had their credit rating cut by rating agency Standard and Poor’s as the country once again sunk into recession.
“In these times of financial crisis, we believe it is essential and fundamental to remove all doubt about the quality and the soundness of Europe’s banks,’‘ Spanish finance minister Luis de Guindos said.
One possible compromise would be to allow a margin of flexibility enabling countries to individually increase capital cushions up to a certain limit, perhaps as much as 10 or 12 percent.
This compares with the Basel rules minimum bank capitalisation of seven percent.