ECB's Asmussen doubts EU banking watchdog ready by January 2013

The European Central Bank will not rush through "half-baked" plans for a new pan-European banking supervisor, policymaker Joerg Asmussen said on Monday, adding to doubts that the new structure can start as planned in January.

Asmussen, who joined the ECB Executive Board at the start of the year, warned all those who were keen to tap the euro zone's permanent bailout fund (ESM) for direct bank recapitalization - for which the new bank supervision mechanism is a pre-requisite - that the ECB would only settle for a properly constituted set-up.

The proposal calls for the ECB to house the new watchdog.

"It is not enough to put up a new sign at the Eurotower in Frankfurt, which says 'European Central Bank and European Banking Supervision', if nothing has changed substantially yet," Asmussen said in a text for a speech to be delivered in Vienna on Monday.

"That's why it remains to be seen whether we can make the date January 1st, 2013."

Germany's Europe Minister, Michael Link, made similar comments earlier in the day, while his French counterpart also cast doubt on the structure being up and running at the start of 2013.

Germany was a driving force behind the idea of the banking union at an EU summit last June, but has warned of overburdening the ECB with new tasks too soon.

Asmussen added: "I want to make something clear to all those who are angling for a possible direct bank recapitalization via the ESM and are prepared to go with a half-baked solution for the banking supervision: not with us. We won't sacrifice the ECB's reputation for this."

The European Commission announced plans to give the ECB primary responsibility for overseeing the euro zone's 6,000 banks in September, and encouraged the broader European Union to participate in the regime.

But the proposal received negative responses from some non-euro zone governments because of concerns that the new rules could weaken their banks.

Asmussen tried to soothe such concern saying he did not have the impression that such a "euro-solution" would undermine the EU's financial market. "Quite the contrary," Asmussen said.

"I expect that a stronger cohesion among the euro countries in particular will have a positive impact beyond the euro zone. That is important, because possible contagion effects are not limited to euro zone countries," he added.

He said those non-euro zone countries which chose to be supervised by the ECB should also get an adequate right of say in return.

Asmussen suggested that a woman could lead the new European banking watchdog, referring to an earlier plea by members of the European Parliament that there were not enough women on the ECB's 23 member Governing Council. There are currently none.

As a result, the parliamentarians delayed indefinitely the appointment of Luxembourg's Yves Mersch to the ECB's six-member Executive Board, putting off his hearing in protest at what they called systemic bias against women.

"In the current, difficult situation, it would be good for the ECB Executive Board to be complete again quickly and somebody like Yves Mersch would help us a lot with his expertise and experience," Asmussen said.

The creation of a pan-European banks watchdog needs to be approved by the EU's 27 member states. It aims to break the link between struggling banks and indebted governments, an interdependence that has exacerbated the three-year-old euro crisis, hitting Spain and Ireland particularly hard.

(Reporting By Eva Kuehnen; Editing by Toby Chopra)