1 So far, the need to develop the multilateral mode has been relatively limited, as the emergence of a single banking market in the European Union has been slow and the euro was not yet in place. Thus, the fact that the multilateral mode has not gone, for the moment, beyond periodic discussions among supervisors and occasional industry-wide analyses should not be a cause for concern.
I am convinced, however, that in the future the needs will change and the multilateral mode will have to deepen substantially. Over time such a mode will have to be structured to the point of providing the banking industry with a true and effective collective euro area supervisor. It will have to be enhanced to the full extent required for banking supervision in the euro area to be as prompt and effective as it is within a single nation.
There are no legal impediments to that. The existing legislation, whether Community or national, permits all the necessary steps to be made. Information can be pooled; reporting requirements and examination practices can be developed and standardised; common databases can be created; joint teams can be formed; and analyses of developments across the whole banking system can be conducted. The Community legislation providing for the unconstrained exchange of confidential information between supervisors does not distinguish between bilateral and multilateral co-operation, but the common interpretation is that it covers both modes. It will be the task of the Banking Supervision Committee, for its part, to develop the multilateral mode among EU banking supervisors.
1 The euro area supervisor can be regarded as a rather peculiar entity composed of national agencies working in three modes : stand-alone, bilateral and multilateral. Let us briefly examine each of them.
1 Starting with current supervision, let me consider banking regulation first. As observed earlier, the regulatory platform for the euro area banking industry combines harmonised rules with country-specific (non-harmonised, but mutually recognised and hence potentially competing) rules.
The country-specific, non-harmonised, part of the platform is also quite relevant and very diversified. It includes, among other things, the different organisational arrangements for the conduct of banking supervision (central bank, separate agency or a mixed arrangement); the tools used by banking supervisors (e.g. supervisory reporting, on-site inspections); provisions for the liquidation and restructuring of banks; and the definition and legal protection of financial instruments and contracts. Even the key notion of a regulated market is harmonised only to a very limited extent.