"The bankers are partying like it's 1999, and it's 2009," Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg, whose country holds the European Union presidency, told reporters before a meeting of finance ministers from the 16 countries that use the euro.
"The bonus culture must come to an end and it must come to an end in Pittsburgh," he added.
Authorities in Europe and the United States want to rein in attempts by financial institutions, including recipients of state bailouts, to return to the bonus culture that was blamed for excessive risk-taking before last year's market crisis.
Public outrage at high bonus payments has been especially high given the billions of dollars that were paid out to support the financial sector during the crisis.
Dutch Finance Minister Wouter Bos, who was also attending the meeting in Brussels, welcomed the French plan.
"The big countries seem to be willing to coordinate with us and create a level playing field, in a way, to regulate bonuses and that is extremely good news," he said.
French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said she would try to persuade other finance ministers to adopt France's position.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said bankers' bonuses would be paid over three years from now on, with half of these, or up to two-thirds for the largest bonuses, deferred over the last two years. A trader whose investments lost money would not receive the payment.
French banks which refused to sign up to the rules would be excluded from state mandates such as privatisation.
Sarkozy also hopes to persuade the G20 to limit and tax bonuses, but said this would not apply in France unless others agreed to the proposals.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the Financial Times in an interview published on Tuesday that he wanted tough action on excessive remuneration, but the newspaper said he was unenthusiastic about French-led pressure to set a mandatory cap.
Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker, who is also Luxembourg's prime minister, said he supported France's proposals. But EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said Europe should follow guidelines set by the European Commission in April.
The guidelines said banks should be allowed to claw back employees' bonuses when performance fails to match expectations over time, but did not propose limits.
(EurActiv with Reuters.)