Euro zone examines faster fund for bad banks

BRUSSELS Mon Jan 27, 2014 1:13pm EST

BRUSSELS Jan 27 (Reuters) - The euro zone may reopen the debate on how soon it will share the costs of winding down banks after a European Central Bank call to accelerate the move towards mutual support won some backing.

The European Union's blueprint to close failing banks depends on a 'resolution' fund, into which banks are to pay roughly 55 billion euros ($75 billion) over 10 years.

The money would be used to finance the closing down of insolvent lenders, but initially, in case of a bank wind-down, each country could only use the amount of money that its own banks contributed.

With each year, euro zone countries would gradually share more and more money from their funds until all the funds are shared after a decade.

But the European Central bank called last week for the 10-year period for full mutualisation to be shortened to five years to make the resolution scheme more robust more quickly.

While Germany remains reluctant, some euro zone finance ministers supported the ECB view as they entered a monthly meeting in Brussels.

"Rather than taking 10 years to full mutualisation ... the discussion should be reopened so that full mutualisation would be arrived at in a shorter timetable and I agree with that," Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan told reporters.

Such faster mutualisation would better safeguard countries that may have trouble in their financial sector, but which might not be fiscally strong enough to backstop the funds in case a large bank were to fail soon.

Slovak Finance Minister Peter Kazimir, asked if he could envisage a shorter period to build up the fund more quickly, also said: "Yes, I can imagine that."

He said, however, it would be better to know what capital needs euro zone banks might have as a result of the stress tests planned for later this year.

"We're now waiting for the (results of) stress tests... later on we could hurry up a little bit," Kazimir said.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble gave the idea a cool response.

"We did the 10 years because the 55 billion euros from the banks have to be paid in. If there is a willingness that it should be paid in more quickly, the banks have to make a higher contribution. I don't think that would be too easy," Schaeuble said.

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