The European Commission is pushing to create a synthetic euro-area-wide safe asset in the form of sovereign bond-backed securities (SBBS). However, SBBS do not fully fulfil their original promises. If introduced on a massive scale, they might increase the supply of safe assets in good times and loosen the link between sovereigns and banks. But they will not give governments a means to maintain market access during crises, they might change incentives for governments to default, and they could pose a problem to individual bonds not included in SBBS if, in the end, they are put at a regulatory advantage vis-à-vis individual bonds.
Several euro area leaders, including the German chancellor, her finance minister, and the French president, have recently referred to the need to “complete the banking union.”. These public calls echo those made in more formal settings, and inevitably raise the question of what criteria should be used to assess the banking union’s completeness.