The European Commission is considering the establishment of a European emergency fund paid for by the financial sector to rescue failing banks and fend off future crises, EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier said on Friday (19 March).
Barnier's proposal comes in the midst of discussions on how to deal with possible future banking collapses like that of the Lehman Brothers in the United States.
''Citizens should not have to foot the bill for this,'' Barnier told a Brussels conference on financial crisis management. He said he believes in the 'polluter pays' principle and backs the idea of an EU contingency fund for collapsing banks that is directly paid for by private financial institutions.
Barnier's spokesperson later confirmed that he is in favour of the financial involvement of the banking sector to help prevent future crises. However, this is Barnier's personal view, the spokesperon added, as the subject is yet to be discussed by the college of commissioners.
The Commission is expected to present a communication on the issue in the autumn. Meanwhile, an informal meeting of EU economy and finance ministers (Ecofin) in April will address the matter, officials said.
The banking sector offered a mixed reaction to Barnier's suggestion. ''As president of the European Banking Federation I am against, but as CEO of Unicredit I support it,'' said Alessandro Profumo, who holds both positions.
Profumo's comments reveal internal divisions within the European Banking Federation, where all of the top EU cross-border financial institutions are represented.
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn declared his full support and went even further by suggesting the creation of a new EU authority.
''I believe we need a European Resolution Authority, provided with the mandate and instruments to manage the failure of cross-border banks,'' he said, speaking at the conference alongside Barnier.
Instead of disputing the role of this or that national authority in the event of the collapse of a cross-border financial institution, Strauss-Kahn said the problem should be solved at its roots.
''The banking system should be pre-funded by the industry itself, through a mix of tariffs on deposit guarantees and taxes on the relevant financial institutions,'' the IMF director stated.
''In case of failure, the first ones to pay should be the shareholders, followed by creditors who do not have insurance,'' he explained.
- April: EU economy and finance ministers to discuss Barnier's proposals.
- Autumn: Commission to table communication on the matter.