November 12, 2019 / 10:15 PM / a month ago

Top Merkel ally slaps down finance minister on banking union

FILE PHOTO: German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz holds a news conference on tax revenues in Berlin, Germany, October 30, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz’s proposal last week for a bank deposit protection scheme covering the entire European Union is not the joint position of the government, the leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives said on Tuesday.

Scholz, a member of the Social Democrats, junior partners in Merkel’s ruling coalition, said last week that Berlin would consider EU-wide bank deposit reinsurance, signaling it may be willing to drop its long-standing opposition to such a scheme.

The Social Democrats are in a fragile coalition with Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), whose seal of approval is needed for Germany to change tack.

“I have noticed that the federal finance minister said something on the banking union, which is not the joint policy of the federal government so far,” CDU chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told broadcaster ARD.

Scholz’s offer was designed to break an impasse on a three-pronged reform signed off by EU leaders in 2012 to shore up the region’s banks and prevent a repeat of the debt crisis.

The first two pillars, making the European Central Bank supervisor and setting up an agency and fund to close ailing banks, are in place. But the third critical element, a single deposit guarantee scheme, has been blocked by Germany.

On Monday, Merkel said the German government wanted to take forward the banking union, adding that Scholz had made his position clear and given negotiations on the project a push.

“We will come to an agreement on the details in the government,” she added.

Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Tom Brown

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