John Bruton On Bank Debt

Excerpt from his article in the Irish Times today:

On the narrower issue of bank debts, the conclusions of the December EU summit are also one-sided and incomplete. For example, the Irish banks owe €113 billion to German banks, €107 billion to British banks and a large amount to Belgian banks. If mistakes were made in borrowing this money by the Irish banks, mistakes were made in lending it too. The lending banks were regulated in their home countries, not in Ireland.

While the Irish banks were regulated by Irish authorities which did not do their jobs properly, Irish taxpayers were not parties either to the lending decisions or the borrowing decisions, yet they are taking on the full responsibility of ensuring that the loans are repaid. They are getting new loans to help them do this, but they will have to repay those loans in full. There is a lack of symmetry here, to use a mild term.

Of course something along these lines was needed back in 2008 to prevent the problems of the Irish banks infecting the German, Belgian and British banks too. In protecting those banks, one was protecting German, Belgian and British taxpayers. So surely this is a European responsibility as well as an exclusively Irish one?

This is the sort of burden-sharing that it would take a lot of time to work out fairly and proportionately – time that the busy part-time Europeans on the European Council simply do not allow themselves to take.

100% John.