In recent years, European coal consumption has increased, while natural gas consumption has declined – despite Europe’s commitment to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. This perverse scenario is partly attributable to EU policies. Subsidies to renewables and energy efficiency targets have the unfortunate side effect of lowering carbon prices, thus partially offsetting their environmental benefits. Raising the EU carbon price would be preferable to employing multiple policy instruments, since it would minimise distortions in energy markets, achieve cost efficiency, and raise fiscal revenues.
Cartel fines imposed by the European Commission routinely reach hundreds of millions of euro, having increased since the new 2006 fining policy. This column argues that they are still below their optimal level and come too slowly. Fines were often lower than the additional cartel profits and imposed 10 to 20 years after making the law-breaking decision was made – sometimes after the responsible managers had retired. To speed investigations, the Commission should Increase resources dedicated to inquiries; fines should also be raised.
The crisis has highlighted the need for, and difficulties with, a Eurozone banking union. This column argues that, to make a union, you need three crucial ingredients: common supervision, a single resolution mechanism, and common safety nets. The power to control and the resources to rescue must work in parallel. Eurozone leaders have taken the first critical steps, but further progress is needed to strengthen the financial architecture of the single currency.
The EU is planning to harmonise data protection. This column balances the benefits of harmonisation against the estimated costs to business – especially small and medium-sized enterprises – and the macroeconomic costs more generally. The net compliance costs will perhaps be larger than the EU predicts.
Will bank supervision in Ohio and Austria be similar? A transatlantic view of the Single Supervisory Mechanism
The euro cannot have a centralised monetary authority and decentralised bank supervision. This column draws on US banking history, detailing how a banking crisis in the nineteenth century led to the creation of dual systems of bank supervision. The US system was imperfect, and the central role and powers of the ECB within the Single Supervisory Mechanism will be to limit the weaknesses of a dual system of supervision. Despite this, hazards remain. For those looking for a guide to the potential threats to financial stability under this system, understanding the US experience is relevant.
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