Europe backs hedge fund oversight and haven crackdown

BERLIN Sun Feb 22, 2009 4:02pm GMT

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BERLIN (Reuters) - European leaders meeting in Berlin on Sunday backed oversight of the world's financial markets and products, including hedge funds, and urged that sanctions be drawn up to punish tax havens.

A copy of the "chair's summary" from a summit hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel and seen by Reuters describes the situation in financial markets as "fraught" and says structural reforms and a focus on public spending are needed to emerge stronger from the global crisis.

"We have today underscored once again our conviction that all financial markets, products and participants must be subject to appropriate oversight or regulation, without exception and regardless of their country of domicile," the statement says.

"This is especially true for those private pools of capital, including hedge funds, that may present a systemic risk."

The statement also urges definitive actions against tax havens and uncooperative jurisdictions.

"According to objective criteria to be based on ongoing work in relevant international institutions, a list of uncooperative jurisdictions and a toolbox of sanctions must be devised as soon as possible," the statement says.

Merkel invited the leaders of Britain, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Luxembourg, as well as the European Commission president, finance ministers and European central bankers to prepare a common stance ahead of a full G20 meeting in London on April 2.

DISTORTION

Since a first G20 summit on reforming the global financial architecture was held in Washington late last year, recessions in Europe and the United States have deepened, forcing governments to push through massive stimulus packages.

The Berlin meeting takes place after a week of accusations of protectionism between European nations, with some of France's partners objecting to its plans to offer 6 billion euros (5.4 billion pounds) in state loans to domestic carmakers.

In the final statement, the leaders commit to implementing stimulus measures and financial rescue plans in a manner that "limits distortions to competition to an absolute minimum."

New tensions within the single currency bloc and the financial woes of European Union members to the east have cast a cloud over the meeting in the German capital.

Ahead of the gathering, the IMF threw its weight behind the idea of a common European bond to alleviate pressure on euro states such as Ireland and Greece that are being forced to pay hefty premiums over stronger bloc members to finance their debt.

In eastern Europe, the currencies of countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary have come under severe pressure, hitting millions across the region who borrowed in foreign currencies such as the euro.

Germany, Europe's benchmark issuer of debt, has rejected the idea of a euro-zone bond.

(Additional reporting by Paul Carrel, Matt Falloon, Francesca Piscioneri, Dave Graham, Yann Le Guernigou; Writing by Noah Barkin)

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