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July 23, 2017

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EU executive bids to reassure Germany on ECB bank supervision

BRUSSELS--The European Commission sought Monday to reassure German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble that the European Central Bank's role in a new bank supervisory system would not be too onerous.

Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso will present proposals for a single European Union supervisory body and rulebook on Sept. 12, the first stage in a so-called banking union that is designed to underpin a long-term response to the debt crisis.

But the EU executive showed signs of altering its stand after Schaeuble told the Financial Times last week that giving the ECB supervisory authority over only the biggest banks, and not all 6,000 or so in the eurozone, would be the "common sense" approach.

EU financial services commissioner Michel Barnier had earlier said the ECB would be at the heart of the financial supervisory regime, not only for the biggest, or systemic banks, but with ultimate responsibility for monitoring of all financial institutions.

But Barnier told reporters at the European Parliament, where he updated MEPs on his plans behind closed doors, that "we will find the right approach" in conjunction with Schaeuble.

It was "inconceivable that this supervision be exercised over all banks from the summit of the industry," he underlined.

In a later speech to the same economic and financial committee at the parliament, EU economy commissioner Olli Rehn said that the ECB "will have to be entrusted with the prime responsibility and with key supervisory tasks to ensure efficient and high-quality supervision."

However, he underlined that "national supervisors, who have accumulated experience and developed expertise in prudential supervision, will continue to play an important role in this system."

An EU source said national supervisors would be "the agents of the ECB," whose tentacles would also reach into non-eurozone countries where eurozone banks have operations, such as in the City of London.

Rehn, for his part, said the new regime, which would still have to get past EU governments and the Parliament and could yet look significantly different from the ideas so far unveiled, would "apply to all (eurozone) states," but would cover others who wanted to opt in.

These non-eurozone EU members, he said, would be "expected to make a legal commitment and give assurances that the decisions taken by the ECB will be binding for their national authorities and banks."

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