In his latest speech, Lorenzo Bini-Smaghi provides some insights into how European financial stability can be improved. Some key passages:
One objection to a more integrated banking system in Europe is the role of national budgets in crisis resolution. As long as budgets remain national – so goes the argument – crisis resolution has to remain national, and so does supervision. The crisis has shown that bank resolution and restructuring are more complicated for cross-border institutions, given that any fiscal costs have to be distributed across several host sovereigns. As Charles Goodhart has said, “…cross-border banks are international in life, but national in death”. 
As I see it, enhanced financial integration in the euro area does not necessarily imply a need for greater fiscal union – if that is understood as a pooling of tax revenues, harmonisation of tax rates or issuance of a common bond. Instead, we must develop the capacity at the area-wide level to address specific financial tensions that threaten to spill over to the area as a whole, minimising disruptions to market integration and supporting the transmission of monetary policy.
The recent crisis – and, in particular, developments in Ireland – have demonstrated that, despite the imperfect integration of the European financial system, very strong cross-border contagion takes place within the financial sector. The instruments available at present to block this contagion are not efficient and have side-effects. In practice, much of the burden to contain contagion has fallen on central banks. This is neither desirable nor appropriate.
In my view, the European authorities need to develop a capacity to conduct a ‘surgical strike’ on problematic financial institutions or market segments in the event of a financial crisis. Through such actions, the area-wide externalities created by specific problems can be contained. In practice, this means ensuring that programmes such as the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) or the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM) – and their envisaged permanent successors – are given sufficient financial resources and the required flexibility by the Member States to act as necessary to support financial stability. To do so, these bodies may also need to be able to support the recapitalisation of an ailing banking system, if its weakness threatens the stability of the area as a whole. All this of course comes with strict conditionality in the context of an overall EU/IMF programme.
This has been the case in both the Greek and Irish programmes, in which funds are dedicated to the recapitalisation of the weak banks. A more systematic approach should be pursued, making it easier for countries to implement such a scheme.
The recent crisis has demonstrated that the European financial system was insufficiently robust. Further measures to deepen integration and bolster stability are required. Looking forward, we have to identify any remaining weaknesses and seek to address them.
Until now, it has generally been argued that the main responsibility for financial supervision has to remain at national level. The consequences of failures in supervision ultimately fall on the taxpayers of the country where the bank resides. To align incentives and ensure appropriate accountability, nationally defined tax bases imply nationally defined supervisory institutions.
However, the crisis has demonstrated that the implications of supervisory failures extend well beyond national boundaries. First, cross-border contagion has been magnified by externalities and spillovers arising from greater area-wide financial integration. Second, experience has shown that, within a more integrated market, greater specialisation may imply that financial systems in one country outgrow the capacity of national taxpayers to support them.
The implications of this experience are profound. As I have argued, they point to the need for a much greater euro area and EU perspective in the supervisory and regulatory framework. While progress has been made in this domain, much remains to be done.