BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Euro zone leaders agreed on Friday to take emergency action to bring down Italy’s and Spain’s spiraling borrowing costs and to create a single supervisory body for euro zone banks by the end of this year, a first step towards a European banking union.
Responding to pleas from Spanish and Italian leaders, a midnight summit of the 17-nation currency area agreed that euro area rescue funds could be used to stabilize bond markets without forcing countries that comply with EU budget rules to adopt extra austerity measures or economic reforms.
After hours of argument, they also agreed that the bloc’s future permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, would be able to lend directly to recapitalize banks without increasing a country’s budget deficit, and without preferential seniority status.
“The process was tough, the outcome was good,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti told reporters, adding that Italy did not intend “at this time” to apply for the emergency support.
Countries that requested bond support from the rescue fund would have to sign a memorandum of understanding setting out their existing policy commitments and agreeing a timetable. But they would not face the intrusive oversight of a “troika” of international lenders to which Greece, Ireland and Portugal have been subjected, Monti said.