EU ministers increase bailout fund

Last weekend’s meeting of EU finance ministers in Copenhagen found no consensus on EU tax on trade of stocks and derivatives

European leaders increased the size of European bailout funds this weekend, but consensus on a European tax on financial transactions (FTT) still seems a long way off.

Those topics led the agenda of the informal meeting of finance ministers in Copenhagen on Friday and Saturday, the largest meeting on home turf during the Danish presidency of the EU thus far.

Europe currently has two bailout funds – the permanent ESM and the EFSF that is set to expire next year – though the ministers agreed to let the EFSF run along side the ESM and provide it with extra firepower.

“The current overall ceiling for ESM/EFSF lending, as defined in the ESM Treaty, will be raised to €700 billion," the finance ministers of the Eurozone countries, known as the Eurogroup, wrote in a statement. "As of mid-2013, the maximum lending volume of ESM will be €500 billion.”

The IMF has criticised the size of the European bailout funds, arguing that at least €1 trillion is needed to adequately shore up the EU from crumbling in the face of future sovereign debt crises.

While the new deal was far from what was demanded by some, the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, expressed satisfaction with the efforts of the Eurogroup.

“Along with other recent European efforts, [the deal] will strengthen the European firewall and support the IMF’s efforts to increase its available resources for the benefit of all our members," Lagarde wrote in a press release.

Following the modest increase to the size of the European bailout funds, it is now hoped that members of the G20 will increase their contributions to the IMF, which in turn will release an additional €500 billion in loans from the IMF for Europe.

The controversial FTT was also discussed at the informal meetings, though several countries such as the UK and Sweden remain opposed to the European Commission's (EC) proposal from last year.

They argue that adopting a 0.1 percent levy on the trade of stocks and bonds and a 0.01 percent levy on the trade of derivates would lead the financial services industry to flee Europe.

As a result, ministers have been proposing alternatives, with the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, presenting his own watered-down version on Friday.

"Colleagues have aired ideas of an activity tax,” Margrethe Vestager, Denmark’s economy minister, said on Saturday. “Another proposal is to take inspiration from the British stamp duty and see if that could work. I think in the process more ideas will come forward.”