FRANKFURT (Reuters) - European regulators must tell banks to cut their bad debts as they are holding back the euro zone's recovery, ECB Executive Board member Yves Mersch said on Monday.

"We cannot afford to waste too much time," he said.

"High levels of non-performing loans are paralyzing banks, preventing them from passing on the ECB’s monetary stimulus to companies and households, and effectively holding back the recovery in the euro area."

"We have to be realistic though; improvements will not happen overnight," Mersch said. "It will take years. We have to be patient – and determined."

(Reporting by Balazs Koranyi; Editing by Louise Ireland)