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By John O'Donnell and Martin Santa BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union agreed on Thursday a blueprint to close failing banks but stopped short of a more ambitious plan for the euro zone to unite in tackling its troubled lenders. More than five years since a financial crisis struck, Europe is on the verge of finalizing one its most ambitious reforms since the launch of the euro - an agency and fund to shut problem banks as soon as the European Central Bank starts to police them next year. Early on Thursday morning, finance ministers from across the bloc sealed a broad agreement on this final element of banking union. European leaders, who will gather in Brussels later in the day, will sign off on it and the final touches will be made in negotiations with the European Parliament next year.