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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
A financial sector at the service of stability and growth
Eurofi Financial Forum 2010
Brussels, 28 September 2010
Deputy Prime Minister [Didier Reynders],
Co-Presidents [Jacques de Larosière, Daniel Lebègue],
Secretary General [Didier Cahen],
Let me start by thanking the Eurofi Financial Forum and the Belgian Presidency of the EU for inviting me to speak to you today.
Today this forum brings together Europe’s key financial market leaders, regulators and supervisors.
You are not the only visitors to Brussels this week. Tomorrow the streets here and around Europe will be filled with workers concerned that they will personally pay the price of austerity.
The man in the street and the whizz kid at the Stock Exchange. Two different outlooks on the same shared world. Brought together by events in financial markets and the reality of our growing economic interdependence.
The crisis has shown with dramatic clarity the consequences of our action – or inaction! – for others. Whether it's a country pursuing reckless macroeconomic policies, a regulator overlooking risky new practices or a trader irresponsibly betting on ever higher bonuses, the price of failure is paid by us all.
Our response must take account of this interdependence. The European Union is delivering a fundamental overhaul of regulation, of governance, of Europe's very economies; a holistic approach that allows us to stabilise, consolidate, reform.
First we took immediate action to support banks, then Member States struggling with sovereign debt. Our action prevented a meltdown.
We are now fixing the fundamental gaps and weaknesses in regulation and supervision, highlighted in the invaluable report Jacques De Larosière delivered last year at my invitation.
Many measures – including on credit rating agencies, protection of depositors, and improved bank capital - are already in place. Others, like rules on hedge funds and private equity, are awaiting final approval. You know the details.
At the risk of embarrassing Jacques de Larosière, it is a huge achievement that his ideas for a new supervisory architecture for Europe will soon see the light of day.
Listening to Jacques back in May 2009, I was personally convinced that the right Commission response was to press ahead at top speed. I am delighted that within a year to the day – 364 days to be precise - of the Commission's legislative proposals, final agreement has been reached, and without compromising on ambition. Some people questioned Europe's capacity to deliver. These results prove we are up to the job.
By the start of next year we will have in place a European Systemic Risk Board and a European system of supervision that brings together national supervisors with three new European Supervisory Authorities. Two years ago most commentators thought this impossible. But we have made it possible.
These arrangements are the bedrock for the rest of our reform and set the global standard. We intend to use the potential of the new authorities to the full as we complete the reform. The Commission is committed to making all outstanding proposals by spring next year, and Commissioner Michel Barnier is working hard to that end.
A key challenge will be getting the right rules in place for dealing with systemically relevant institutions – those which are ‘too big to fail'. The Commission will set out a crisis management and resolution framework next October.
Another one will be to ensure that the new prudential rules agreed in Basel are properly reflected in our legal framework.
Here and elsewhere, we are acutely conscious of the need to maintain this sector's international competitiveness. We want to see strong European financial markets, competing fairly and winning on a global level playing field.
The EU is a driving force behind international reform efforts, through the G20. We have pressed for internationally consistent solutions, designed and calibrated in dialogue with our partners. And we will insist that they too deliver on the promises made. I will make this point clear at the G20 Summit in Seoul next November.
Our own work programme is clearly laid out and predictable - no surprises! We are sticking to our smart regulation principles: transparency, extensive consultations with stakeholders and detailed impact assessments.
We are determined to deliver this reform, but we too have a duty to act responsibly. In particular, we need to ensure appropriate phasing-in of some of our reforms, to avoid choking off our recovery.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The sovereign debt crisis earlier this year exposed gaps and weaknesses in macroeconomic surveillance, in particular in the Stability and Growth Pact, that cannot continue. The time has come to complete monetary union with economic union. Alongside regulatory reform, we need an overhaul of our economic governance tools.
The Commission will announce its proposals to achieve this tomorrow (29 September). Our proposals will build on the consensus fostered in the Task Force, chaired by the President of the European Council, to monitor and address imbalances better, improve budgetary surveillance, look at government debt in a more sustained way, and give real teeth to the Stability and Growth Pact.
Greater stability at macroeconomic and market level is an essential foundation for the major structural changes needed in our economies. The Europe 2020 strategy is guiding our economy towards new sources of growth and cohesion, in order to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
There is no time to lose in getting Europe back on the path of growth and jobs. Financial services must make a positive contribution to this.
I want to see growth in new seed funds, and private equity or venture capital funds. We need to offer young, innovative companies alternative ways to raise capital. We should look at how we can release the potential of private investment through properly regulated retail products. We will return to these issues in our proposal for an innovation union – a flagship of Europe 2020 – ahead of the December European Council. We will be following Eurofi's work on long-term investment with great interest.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The European Commission is not interested in bashing bankers or fund managers. Our aim is a thriving and sustainable European financial services sector – in London, in Paris, in Frankfurt and beyond.
But no-one should underestimate the sense of injustice that Europe's citizens feel today.
The financial sector has benefited from a lot of solidarity, and it is time to return the favour by showing great responsibility.
The industry has engaged in the broad direction of reform over the past months. That is very welcome.
But now you need to put your money where your mouth is. To show that the culture of excessive bonuses is over – not just for a few months but forever. To prove that you can develop products that are as sustainable as they are innovative. To put financial services back at the service of the economy.
That also means looking at how your sector serves citizens: access to basic banking services, responsible lending, and transparency of bank fees will be among the Commission’s priorities in the coming months.
And it means making a fair contribution to cover the costs the sector has incurred for the tax-payer. In the coming weeks the Commission will present ideas for taxing financial activities. In parallel, we will continue to discuss a global financial transactions tax with our international partners.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Together with the Member States and the other institutions – the European Parliament and the Council - the Commission is implementing balanced solutions to get Europe out of crisis and back to growth.
It is time for the financial sector to show it is no longer part of the problem. I believe you can indeed be part of the solution and I count on your full support as we work together to renew the financial services industry in Europe and throughout the world. Thank you.