White Paper No. 93

Completing the banking union: Economic requirements and legal conditions

The great financial crisis and the euro area crisis led to a substantial reform of financial safety nets across Europe and – critically – to the introduction of supranational elements. Specifically, a supranational supervisor was established for the euro area, with discrete arrangements for supervisory competences and tasks depending on the systemic relevance of supervised credit institutions. A resolution mechanism was created to allow the frictionless resolution of large financial institutions. This resolution mechanism has been now complemented with a funding instrument.

While much more progress has been achieved than most observers could imagine 12 years ago, the banking union remains unfinished with important gaps and deficiencies. The experience over the past years, especially in the area of crisis management and resolution, has provided impetus for reform discussions, as reflected most lately in the Eurogroup statement of 16 June 2022.

This Policy Insight looks primarily at the current and the desired state of the banking union project. The key underlying question, and the focus here, is the level of ambition and how it is matched with effective legal and regulatory tools. Specifically, two questions will structure the discussions:

What would be a reasonable definition and rationale for a ‘complete’ banking union? And what legal reforms would be required to achieve it?

Banking union is a case of a new remit of EU-level policy that so far has been established on the basis of long pre-existing treaty stipulations, namely, Article 127(6) TFEU (for banking supervision) and Article 114 TFEU (for crisis management and deposit insurance). Could its completion be similarly carried out through secondary law? Or would a more comprehensive overhaul of the legal architecture be required to ensure legal certainty and legitimacy?