HIGHLIGHTS-Comments from EU finance ministers, officials
(Adds German finance minister quote)
BRUSSELS Dec 12 (Reuters) - Germany signalled it was ready to back plans for the European Central Bank to be made the chief supervisor of banks, raising the prospect of a breakthrough on the European Union's most ambitious financial reform.
EU finance ministers were meeting in Brussels on Wednesday to try to strike a deal on the banking union.
Following are comments from ministers and officials ahead of the talks:
GERMAN FINANCE MINISTER WOLFGANG SCHAEUBLE
ON BANKING UNION:
"We think that we have a good chance to reach a deal today and we have committed to design a legal framework to a banking union before the end of the year."
"My intention is that we find a solution to the banking union on time, before Christmas."
ON SEPARATION OF POWERS AT THE EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK (ECB):
"The independence of the ECB is such a valued commodity that we need a clear separation between bank supervision and monetary policy."
"We have a lot of experience with this in Germany."
"We have written proposals on how we can achieve this (separation) without treaty change."
"It would be best to have limited treaty change but that doesn't happen overnight. That is why we have taken up the proposal from our Swedish colleague at the summit before last. That is to say that we will have an interim solution and when we have treaty change we can find a better solution."
"For those countries who do not want to participate, we will find a satisfying solution inside the European Banking Authority (EBA). That is the prerequisite for finding a solution, in the end we all have to be unanimous."
"No European bank watchdog can oversee all 6,000 banks. Nobody wants that and we all know that we don't need to over- interpret too many conflicts in this question."
"It's indisputable that the European supervisor can, with good reason, take on the supervision of an individual bank."
"Systemically relevant banks come under the European supervisor and then we need to establish where the cut-off point is."
"But because we want to give the European supervisor the right to take on the supervision of banks in individual cases, or to do this at the request from a country, I think the conflict is not so difficult."
FRENCH FINANCE MINISTER PIERRE MOSCOVICI
ON MINIMUM ASSET LEVEL FOR BANKS UNDER DIRECT ECB SUPERVISION:
"Thirty billion (euros) is fine with me, but no higher. If I take the example of the French banks it's not the systemic banks that pose a problem... If the threshold is too high, banks that we need to supervise will slip through the net."
"I agree we should be pragmatic, that there are thresholds, that there are roles for both the ECB and the national supervisors but on two conditions: that the thresholds are not too high and two that the European Central Bank has the main powers."
"The French and German positions are closer than they've been, and I think that they can get closer. But we are not alone."
SPANISH ECONOMY MINISTER LUIS DE GUINDOS
"We hope to have a deal today, we have made a lot of progress. We have a mandate from leaders to reach a deal. We need to establish different organs for supervision and monetary policy in the ECB. It is very important to send a message that we have a plan."
SWEDISH FINANCE MINISTER ANDERS BORG
ON AGREEMENT ON BANKING UNION:
"We could see an agreement today, but that's on the prerequisite that we would have a good compromise on EBA (European Banking Authority) rules so that we have safeguards against being dominated by the ECB as supervisor.
"From our perspective, it is very likely that we would have a deal on the banking union today."
ON PROSPECTS FOR SWEDEN TO JOIN BANKING UNION:
"Sweden are not likely to join the banking union. We don't think it is likely we will achieve an equal treatment. We don't think that we have the safeguards when it comes to the Swedish banks and the Swedish taxpayers not being responsible for banking mistakes in other countries."
ON DIVISIONS WITHIN EUROPEAN UNION:
Agreement on banking union would be a "sad day for Europe".
"It would mean that we would be more divided after this day than before... There is a move now towards eurobanks, eurotaxes, euro transfers, euro commission.
"We think (those are) steps in the wrong direction. It might be very popular among the eurocrats, but I think there are very few Europeans actually wanting these developments." (Reporting by Claire Davenport, Leigh Thomas, Robin Emmott and John O'Donnell; compiled by Rex Merrifield)