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Critical Analysis of the Zero Risk Weight Privilege for European Sovereign Debt in Light of Art. 124 TFEU

Patrick Hauser
From the journal The Economists’ Voice

Abstract

The zero risk weight privilege for European sovereign debt in the current capital adequacy requirements for credit institutions incentivises credit institutions to acquire and hold sovereign debt. However, it also poses a significant risk to the stability of the banking system and thus the financial system as a whole. It is argued that this privilege should not only be abolished due to the risk it entails but that it is also non conformant with EU primary law. Art. 124 TFEU prohibits privileged access of the EU and Member States' public sector to financial institutions except for prudential considerations. The protective purpose of Art. 124 TFEU to ensure sound budgetary policies by subjecting public borrowing to the same rules as borrowing by other market participants is thwarted by the uniform zero risk weight privilege. Further, as this privilege does not take into account the varying creditworthiness of the individual Member States it does not promote the soundness of financial institutions so as to strengthen the soundness of the financial system as whole, but rather endangers systemic stability. The zero risk weight privilege is therefore not based on prudential considerations and hence violates Art. 124 TFEU.


Corresponding author: Patrick Hauser, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Institute for Competition Law, Düsseldorf, Germany, E-mail:

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Received: 2019-08-22
Accepted: 2020-03-23
Published Online: 2020-11-17

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