European Union finance ministers are making a fresh attempt to set up rules on how to distribute the cost of failing banks without letting taxpayers foot the bill.

The EU's 27 finance ministers are set to gather for an emergency meeting in Brussels late Wednesday after they failed to reach an agreement on the legislation in 19 hours of negotiations last week.

Germany's finance chief Wolfgang Schaeuble told radio station Deutschlandfunk ahead of the talks that it was neither easy nor certain that an agreement could be reached, saying he hoped for "a result at a humanly bearable hour."

The rules would be an important step forward in Europe's so-called banking union plan to restore financial and economic stability to the recession-hit region.