The European Commission has threatened legislation to enforce improvements to cross-border clearing and settlement procedures by the summer break unless market participants take voluntary steps to cut dealing costs.
In a joint statement, competition and internal markets Commissioners Neelie Kroes and Charlie McCreevy say they will use EU competition and single market rules to improve access to cross-border clearing and settlement in the EU.
Referring to the current fragmented system, the Commissioners state: "The present system is untenable. Changes are going to have to be made."
The EU has been encouraged by the investment banking lobby to seek the break-up of exchange models in which clearing and settlement is vertically integrated with dealing provision. Duetsche Börse, the most ardent proponent of the vertical business model, has recently indicated that it would be prepared to accept wider ownership of its clearing and settlement business in return for consolidation gains through merger activity.
Before taking their final decision, Kroes and McCreevey have urged market players to come forward with effective proposals to trigger the necessary changes.
"Where possible, we would prefer to have market-led solutions which meet effective competition and internal market concerns," they say.