The Commission rejected the proposal drawn up by the German government in close collaboration with the German Savings Banks Association on open questions surrounding the non-discriminatory sale of Bankgesellschaft Berlin in 2007 and the associated issue of the restrictions on using the name “Sparkasse” enshrined in Section 40 of the German Banking Act. The Commission is requesting extensive fundamental changes. The Association of German Banks welcomes the Commission's firm stance, which it considers entirely consistent with antitrust law, and feels vindicated in its view that the government's proposal falls far short of solving what are manifest problems.
“It is now up to the German government to bring elements identified by the Commission as anticompetitive into line with EU law – this applies both to Bankgesellschaft Berlin and to Section 40 in general,” said Manfred Weber, Chief Executive of the Association of German Banks. Otherwise, he added, proceedings before the European Court of Justice and a defeat for the German government were inevitable.
A hardening of the official German position towards Brussels, argued Weber, could not only jeopardise the sale of Bankgesellschaft. Germany's image in Europe would suffer, too, given that virtually all other member states had long since modernised their banking systems along the lines requested by the Commission.
© Graham Bishop
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