[This blog post is an excerpt from a commentary posted at TSI about three weeks ago]
TARGET2 is the system set up in the euro-zone to clear inter-bank payments. The Bundesbank (Germany’s central bank) describes it as a payment system that enables the speedy and final settlement of national and cross-border payments. The problem is that often there is no “final settlement” under TARGET2. Instead, credits and debits can build up indefinitely.
To understand the issue it first must be understood that although the 19 countries that comprise the euro-zone use a common currency, the euro-zone isn’t really a unified monetary system. It is more like 19 separate monetary systems, each of which is overseen by a National Central Bank (NCB). These NCBs are, in turn, overseen and coordinated by the ECB. TARGET2 is the means by which money is transferred quickly and efficiently between these 19 separate monetary systems. The transfer may well be quick and efficient, but, as noted above, it often doesn’t result in final settlement.
Further explanation is provided by the Bundesbank, as follows: