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European debt crisis: a dangerous week ahead

European debt crisis enters a dangerous phase with a German court ruling, Dutch election, and EU finance ministers meeting this week. A reversal of support for the EU's beleaguered nations could intensify the European debt crisis. 

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However, crises have spread from institutions such as Britain's Northern Rock and Spain's Bankia which had appeared to pose little threat to the wider banking system.

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The Commission and the ECB therefore want the new supervisor to have ultimate authority over all lenders, even if it delegates to national watchdogs. Bankers tend to agree.

"If we put all banks under the same supervision mechanism, that would ensure a level playing field," the chief executive of Italy's UniCredit, Federico Ghizzoni, told Reuters in an interview. "And it's not only large banks that pose systemic risks."

German lawmakers fiercely oppose longer-term plans for a common banking resolution fund and deposit guarantee scheme, which Barroso may raise in a state of the union address that will lay out steps to deeper economic and monetary union.

The ECB's promise to buy short-term bonds of vulnerable countries that accept a partial bailout programme has given governments a breathing space to repair the design flaws of the euro, but EU leaders remain far apart on what to do.

The EU's top economic official, Olli Rehn, sought to make such assistance more politically palatable to Spain and Italy, saying the conditions attached would be based on existing policy recommendations but "would have to include very specific objectives and a timeline on how to meet the objectives".

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said Madrid, which has already agreed to European aid for its troubled banks, should not have to meet extra conditions for sovereign assistance, such as cutting pensions.

Barroso will lay out the building blocks for closer fiscal integration and changes that may be needed to ensure "democratic accountability" in a more centralised euro zone. But several countries, including the Netherlands, have deep misgivings about yielding more sovereignty and there is little public support for such moves.

"Nobody, least of all investors, should be under any illusion about the reason why the ECB is acting more forcefully to shore up Spanish and Italian debt markets," Spiro said.

"These steps are being taken in the face of repeated failures on the part of Europe's leaders to solve the political, economic and institutional problems that continue to bedevil the single currency area. The big issues of a fiscal and banking union, to say nothing about growth and competitiveness, remain in the hands of politicians, not central bankers."

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