European finance ministers appear to have made a breakthrough in their long-standing efforts to deal with failing banks.

The ministers from the 17 European Union countries that use the euro met till the early hours of Wednesday, before resuming discussions with colleagues from the wider 28-country EU.

Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who also heads the so-called Eurogroup, said ministers had "come a long way" on resolving how to pay for rescuing, or closing, sick or badly run banks.

There's been a lengthy debate about how to pay for that insurance policy, and whether European taxpayers should be on the hook.

Olli Rehn, the EU's top monetary affairs commissioner, said eurozone ministers have arrived at a compromise on that point, and that represents a "crucial breakthrough" for a banking union.