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Germany questions banking supervision timetable

Germany's finance minister has cast doubt on the deadline for a new eurozone bank supervision plan. His concerns divided EU finance ministers during a meeting in Cyprus designed to ease Europe's crisis.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble warned his counterparts on Saturday that plans to place all eurozone lenders under the supervision of the European Central Bank would not be in place in time for an ambitious EU deadline.

Schäuble told the meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors gathered in Nicosia, Cyprus, that the January 1, 2013 target adoption date "will not be possible." It is "not even worth having that discussion," he added.

Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg had earlier in the day dismissed the plans as "completely unacceptable."

The 27 heads of state and government of the European Union had agreed to establish banking oversight during a summit back in June. The plan had been billed as a possible way-out of the currency area's debt crisis.

But the finer details over the supervision of more than 6,000 banks proved to be a key sticking-point between the 17 eurozone nations and 10 other EU states during the two-day talks.

Ambitious plan

While EU Market Regulation Commissioner Michel Barnier defended the plan's timeline as "ambitious, demanding, realistic and necessary," he admitted that a "juridical problem" was yet to be ironed out.

The plan requires the unanimous support of all 27 EU states, not just the 17 eurozone states sharing the single currency, something which Schäuble warned would "not be easy" to obtain and would stall implementation.

Indeed non-eurozone nations, including Sweden, have expressed concern over the proposal for the European Central Bank to regulate institutions in which business is conducted in a different currency.

"We cannot accept that the money of Swedish taxpayers is used to bail out foreign banks," Anders Borg said on Saturday.

"The whole idea that we would be under the supervision of an institution where we have no voting rights, where [spending decisions on] our taxpayers' money could depend on decisions taken by an institution where we have no influence, is completely unacceptable."

He added that these were "red lines" for opponents.

ccp/jr (AFP, dpa)