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Banking in the European Union

Latest business news and information covering the EU's banking sector.

EC guidance for the treatment of toxic assets in the EU banking sector
The European Commission has provided guidance on the treatment of asset relief measures by EU Member States. Impaired or 'toxic' assets correspond to categories of assets on which banks are likely to incur losses (e.g. US sub-prime mortgage backed securities). The Commission considers that a common European approach is presently needed to deal with the treatment of impaired assets, to make sure that foreseeable losses are disclosed and properly handled and banks can use their capital to resume their normal function of lending to the economy instead of fearing they would need this capital to cushion against possible losses. The Commission's Communication outlines various methods to deal with impaired assets, notably through asset purchase (including bad bank scenarios) or asset insurance schemes. It explains the budgetary and regulatory implications of asset relief measures and presents details concerning the application of the State aid rules to such measures. In particular, the guidance provides methodologies concerning the valuation of the impaired assets, the necessary remuneration of the State for the asset relief and the procedural steps that will be followed as well as the criteria that will be used to evaluate the State aid given to the banks as a result.

Bank account switching
In its staff working document on the initiatives in the area of retail financial services, accompanying the Communication A single market for 21st century Europe, COM(2007)724 final, the European Commission invited the EU banking industry to develop a switching service to be offered by banks of all Member States to consumers who wish to switch their bank account from one bank to another at national level. In response to this invitation, the European Banking Industry Committee (EBIC) has adopted its Common Principles for Bank Account Switching.

Revision of EU rules on Deposit Guarantee Schemes - briefing
The European Commission has put forward a revision of EU rules on deposit guarantee schemes that puts into action the commitments made by EU Finance Ministers on 7 October. The new rules are designed to improve depositor protection and to maintain the confidence of depositors in the financial safety net. Under the new rules, the minimum level of coverage for deposits will be increased within one year from €20,000 to €100,000, and initially to €50,000 in the intervening period. Individual Member States can choose to add to these minimum levels. In addition, the payout period in the event of bank failure will be reduced from three months to three days. The proposal now passes to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers for consideration.

Commission guidance on state aid for banks in crisis - briefing
The European Commission has published guidance on how EU Member States can best support financial institutions in the current financial crisis whilst respecting EU state aid rules and so avoiding excessive distortions of competition. The guidance is based in particular on EC Treaty rules allowing for aid to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State (Article 87.3.b of the EC Treaty). The guidance will help Member States to put in place coordinated concrete measures to restore confidence in financial markets in accordance with the 12th October Eurogroup declaration. EU state aid rules require that measures taken do not give rise to disproportionate distortions of competition, for example by discriminating against financial institutions based in other Member States and/or allowing beneficiary banks to unfairly attract new additional business solely as a result of the government support. Other requirements include that measures must be limited in time and foresee adequate contributions from the private sector. The Commission will aim to approve schemes that comply with this guidance very quickly (within 24 hours, if possible).

EU finance ministers (Ecofin): Europe's immediate responses to financial turmoil
The Council of European Union Finance Ministers (ECOFIN) today adopted conclusions on the immediate responses to take to the financial crisis, along with four statements on the following subjects: financial stability and financial supervision, a coordinated EU response to the economic slowdown, executive pay, and the fight against tax fraud.

Capital Requirements Directive - briefing
The European Commission has put forward a revision of EU rules on capital requirements for banks that is designed to reinforce the stability of the financial system, reduce risk exposure and improve supervision of banks that operate in more than one EU country. Under the new rules, banks will be restricted in lending beyond a certain limit to any one party, while national supervisory authorities will have a better overview of the activities of cross-border banking groups. The proposal, which amends the existing Capital Requirements Directives, reflects extensive consultation with international partners, Member States and industry. It now passes to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers for consideration.

Financial inclusion - guide
The study “Financial Services Provision and Prevention of Financial Exclusion”, prepared for the European Commission, aims at identifying and analysing the most effective policy measures to prevent financial exclusion of people facing poverty or social exclusion.

Commission investigation into UK restructuring aid package for Northern Rock - guide
The European Commission on 2 April 2008 launched an in-depth investigation under the EC Treaty’s rules on state aid into the UK authorities' package of measures to support the restructuring of Northern Rock, the UK mortgage bank. The Commission received the notification of these measures on 17th March 2008. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested parties the possibility to comment on the proposed measures but it does not prejudge the outcome.

The SWIFT case and the American Terrorist Finance Tracking Program
After the 11th September 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States Department of the Treasury ("U.S. Treasury") developed the "Terrorist Finance Tracking Program" ("TFTP"). The TFTP is based on United States statutory mandates and Executive Orders authorising the U.S. Treasury to use appropriate measures to identify, track and pursue those who provide financial support for terrorist activity.