EURO CRISIS

Brussels warms to idea of banks directly tapping rescue

Germany says it’s up to Spain to decide on bailout but Rajoy's government insists it doesn’t need one

The European Commission is coming round to Spain’s point of view that euro-zone banks should be able to directly tap the permanent European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

“We have been considering this as a serious possibility, of breaking the link between the sovereigns and the banks,” EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn told a news briefing in Brussels on Monday.

Rehn had previously dismissed this possibility as the rules of the ESM, which comes into effect at the start of next month, require that funds for recapitalizing banks should be formally requested by national governments. In Madrid, Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy is keen to avoid the political stigma of having to ask for a bailout and wants to avoid the conditions that would be imposed for any assistance. He has insisted in the need to move toward a European banking union.

“This is not part of the ESM [bailout fund] treaty for the moment, in its present form, but we see that it is important to consider this alternative of direct bank recapitalization as we are now moving on in the discussion on the possible ways and means to create a banking union,” Rehn said. “The key issue is to be able to break the link between the banks and the sovereigns so that we can go to the roots of this current debt crisis.”

The key issue is to be able to break the link between the banks and the sovereigns"

Rehn’s remarks helped ease the pressure on Spanish government debt. The risk premium narrowed 16 basis points to 519 as the yield of the benchmark 10-year government bond eased to 6.413 percent.

Germany, however, continues to insist that moves for greater fiscal and banking integration in Europe is still some time way and that strict conditions should be attached to bailouts granted to euro-zone countries.

German magazine Der Spiegel reported in this week’s edition that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble are pushing Rajoy to accept a rescue package for the banks.

“Only a national government can decide whether it wants to avail itself of the rescue mechanism and the conditions attached to it, and that, of course, also applies to Spain,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Monday.

Seibert said options such as “eurobonds” will only come about after “many years” of euro-zone integration.

But the Spanish government continued to insist it did not need a bailout to clean up its banks. “The Spanish government is showing that it is capable of doing what needs to be done to pull the country out of the crisis, and therefore, in no way is intervention necessary,” the secretary general of the ruling Popular Party, María Dolores de Cospedal said Monday.

“Spain is capable of getting out of this on its own, and Spaniards are capable of facing this situation with a government that is taking measures and that has to persevere in this direction, which is not easy; but we are capable of taking this on and getting over it,” De Cospedal added.

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