European finance ministers have been meeting to decide who get stuck with the bill when banks fail.
Since the 2008 financial crisis it has mostly been taxpayers, but at their gathering in Luxembourg on Friday, the ministers were trying to agree rules, including forcing losses on large savers.
Under discussion is a draft EU law which recommends that the first to suffer would the shareholders of a failing bank, then it would be bondholders, and finally each depositor with more than 100,000 euros in their account.
But there is division over how strict the new rules should be.
Sweden, Britain and France believe individual countries should have the final word on how to close banks and not be tightly bound by any new EU rules.
But Germany, the Netherlands and Austria want Europe-wide regulations. They fear that granting too much national leeway would undermine the new law.
“We are in for a very tough negotiation,” Sweden’s Finance Minister Anders Borg told reporters as he arrived for the meeting, saying a one-size-fits-all rule for all EU countries was “dangerous”.
While there is no immediate deadline for a deal, dithering could undermine confidence in the ability of Europe’s politicians to repair the financial system, encourage banks to lend again and help the continent emerge from its economic stagnation.
If agreed, the new EU rules would take effect at the start of 2015 with the provisions to impose losses coming as late as 2018.
The European Union spent the equivalent of a third of its economic output on saving its banks between 2008 and 2011, plundering taxpayer cash but struggling to contain the crisis and – in the case of Ireland – almost bankrupting the country.
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