The meeting of the Eurogroup focussed exclusively on how we can make progress on Banking Union. In this meeting, I presented to my colleagues a detailed proposal for a stepwise and time-bound work plan on all of the outstanding elements to complete Banking Union. This was requested by our leaders.
The meeting went exactly as I would have expected. There was broad agreement from colleagues on the need to make progress on Banking Union. At the same time, member states set out their positions with regard to the work plan that I presented.
The plan has been formulated to reflect the views and the concerns that have been raised by member states in my many months of engagement with them. And I was heartened that many colleagues did recognise the importance of revisions that have been made and compromises that have been offered.
After many years of intense discussions, we now know each other's viewpoints well. I made the case for compromise, I made the case for trying to move forward. Now, I am obviously and certainly not say that our differences have been settled. Banking Union remains a very complex project, both technically and politically, a project that we are continuing to try to make progress on in very challenging times. However, it is my firm belief that shared challenges can also foster a shared sense of responsibility. And I made that case in the Eurogroup meeting and I did send and receive a recognition of that point from my colleagues.
I've also been engaging intensively with my counterparts in the Commission, Executive Vice President Dombrovskis, Commissioner Gentiloni, and Commissioner McGuinness, also with Klaus Regling in his role as managing director of the ESM. And then, of course, engagement with President Lagarde and the ECB. All of their engagement has been very helpful in preparing the draft work plan.
So what I proposed aimed to achieve balance across four different workstreams:
-a stronger framework for the management of failing banks within the European Union,
-more robust protection for depositors,
-a more integrated market for banking services, and
-increased diversification of bank sovereign bond holdings in the European Union.
There are two phases for each workstream. In the first phase, I proposed measures for immediate implementation. In the second phase - additional longer-term measures to complete the Banking Union. The direction and key features for the second phase would already be set now. We would not have an open horizon.
There is also innovation in the process that I put forward. There would be a political checkpoint between the two phases, and that checkpoint is an important moment. First, it would provide a guarantee. Member states would be able to assess whether the broader conditions are in place to move to the second phase of the reforms and to set out the way in which additional measures would be delivered based on the principles which are already included in the workplan now. But the checkpoint is also an incentive for progress on all workstreams. When phase two is implemented, I have proposed a review clause to reassess if all of the pieces work together, or more will need to be done on Banking Union overall.
So all in all, we did have a very full and very comprehensive discussion this afternoon. There was an exchange of views on really important issues. And obviously, there is a huge amount of work to be done. My team and I will spare no effort between now and June to try to make this progress and to try to reach agreement. I was heartened by the willingness of ministers to engage and to continue to engage in this detailed discussion. There was a good humour in our exchange. We have a lot to do and we will get to it.