Eurogroup President Confident of Capital Markets Agreement Monday

(Bloomberg) -- European Union finance ministers agreed on a broad roadmap aimed at giving momentum to near-dormant efforts to break down barriers between the region’s capital markets.

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All 27 countries in the bloc backed an “ambitious” statement that includes commitments related to developing securitization, creating EU-wide investment products and a common rulebook, according to Eurogroup President Paschal Donohoe.

“We have achieved a very strong policy direction,” he told a news conference after EU finance chiefs discussed capital markets union at a meeting in Brussels on Monday. “All ministers today agreed on the urgency to act.”

The EU has failed to make much progress since the project was launched a decade ago. The issue has become more urgent as the bloc faces huge financing needs for the climate and digital transition that can’t be met by public funds at the same time as it seeks to boost defense spending.

Officials say underdeveloped markets compared with the US are undermining the EU’s strategic autonomy and encouraging businesses to seek funding abroad, or even leave the continent entirely. European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde has added to the sense of urgency, saying progress would be the best way to prepare the EU for the potential economic disruption from a return of Donald Trump to the White House.

“Capital markets finance is essential to scale up EU companies in fast-growing, strategic sectors like cleantech and biotech,” EU Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said at the news conference. “Our strength lies in our unity, and our internal market is our biggest economic asset. Now more than ever, we need scale.”

Last month, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire expressed frustration with discussions and a lack of progress on capital markets union, suggesting a small group of countries could forge ahead alone on a voluntary basis. This could include joint supervision, a common savings product and guarantees for securitization, he said.

Donohoe, who has said he wanted an agreement among all ministers, said Monday’s statement addresses issues raised by Le Maire.

“What is contained here I believe is a strong statement with relation to supervision,” he said. “It makes a clear commitment here in relation to the common rulebook in terms of how capital markets are supervised and it also lays out a process whereby further options can be evaluated by the commission in conjunction with national stakeholders.”

He said individual governments were free to decide whether to pool their efforts to go further, but added that this agreement was “way ahead of what I would have thought possible when we began this political process.”

--With assistance from Max Ramsay, Jan Bratanic and Francine Lacqua.

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