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03 March 2014

Financial World: Too little, too late, too light (Graham Bishop article)

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Graham Bishop reviews the reactions to the European Commission's banking reform proposals.

Finally, the European Commission has come forward with plans to restructure Europe’s banking sector after taking “into account the useful report by the high level [Liikanen] group”. That sounds a little like faint praise for the report’s banking reform proposals. The Commission’s target was restricted to only the biggest and most complex banks and the plan was to stop them from engaging in the risky activity of proprietary trading.

For Michel Barnier, the European commissioner for internal markets, stinging criticisms generated by this proposal were a sign it was pitched just right, hitting the perfect “point of balance” between US, UK, French and German initiatives to restructure banks. “I’m not surprised by the reactions”, he said. “Have you ever seen any of my proposals welcomed with enthusiasm by the financial sector? These banks continue to engage in risky market activity that turns a profit but does not serve their customers. Is that proper? I say no.”

Barnier may not have gained the centre-right European People’s party nomination for Commission president but he appears committed to stand down from the Commission and campaign as a candidate for the European Parliament. At the least, this proposal should give him some soundbites.

Financial World website

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