Eurozone countries are facing a stalemate in the completion of the Banking Union, at the heart of which is the regulation of banks’ sovereign exposures. This column introduces the latest issue of European Economy, which examines the interactions between banks and sovereign risk, the build up of sovereign risk during the crisis, and the policy proposals on the table to severe the loop and, more broadly, to finally complete the Banking Union.
Giorgio Barba Navaretti, Giacomo Calzolari, Alberto Pozzolo, 15 July 2016
Nicola Borri, Pietro Reichlin, 04 May 2016
Most commentators agree that a European banking union would end the ‘deadly embrace’ between creditors and governments. This column argues that a banking union would be welcome, but that current proposals are dogged with problems. To resolve these, we should stop discussing debt restructuring and instead enhance the borrowing capacity of the European Stability Mechanism. A programme to buy capital in financial institutions unable to raise it directly on the market should also be set up.
Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan, 12 February 2016
The ongoing Eurozone Crisis has raised many debates on what needs to be done to reduce the frequency and severity of similar future crises. This column discusses the implications of equity versus debt flows in terms of risk sharing during the Crisis, and in terms of slow recovery in the aftermath of the Crisis. The author suggests that to induce a fast recovery in an aftermath of a crisis, the EZ needs a banking union and a broader financial union based on equity ownership.
Thorsten Beck, 25 April 2016
A lot has been achieved in terms of institution building to turn the Eurozone into a sustainable currency union. The Eurozone Crisis, however, has shown that the Eurozone is still not a properly functioning currency union. This column, first posted 12 February 2016, points to three areas of further reform to achieve such a goal. These include the disentanglement of sovereigns and banks, completion of a banking union, and an institutional convergence for a fully integrated financial system.
Jean Pisani-Ferry, 10 April 2016
The dramatic episodes in the Eurozone in the past few years called for a number of policy reactions. Yet the response was usually limited to what was deemed indispensable to ensure survival. This column discusses how such half-solutions paved the way for future crises. The author also puts forward a few proposals regarding the Eurozone’s policies. Among them are a European Monetary Fund, an overhaul of surveillance, the completion of banking union, an insolvency procedure for sovereigns, and Eurobonds of some sort. And the sooner such issues are deeply discussed, the faster coherent solutions can be reached.
Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, 08 April 2016
The euro is unique in that it is a currency without a sovereign. Since the crisis, there have been major developments towards making the Eurozone more resilient, including the banking union and the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). This column, originally published 12 February 2016, explores whether further normalisation is required to make the Eurozone function properly. It argues that the Eurozone, unlike existing federations, lacks the ability to deliver counter-cyclical fiscal policies while complying with fiscal discipline. Macroeconomic coordination will thus require rules, a strong and independent European Fiscal Board, and the strengthening of the ESM.
Richard Baldwin, Francesco Giavazzi, 12 February 2016
Important progress has been made in repairing the design faults that the EZ Crisis revealed. This column introduces a new VoxEU eBook which argues that fixing the Eurozone is a job half done. The eBook, which presents 18 chapters by leading economists that hail from a broad range of nations and schools of thought, is surely the most comprehensive collection of solutions that has ever been assembled.
Stefano Micossi, 07 September 2015
The sovereign debt and banking crises of 2010-12 have led to significant changes in the institutions of the Eurozone. The credibility of common policies regarding budgetary discipline and economic convergence remains weak. This chapter proposes that the way forward is to gradually bring common economic policies under the oversight of the European Parliament and to strengthen the role of the Commission. The picture must be completed with getting national parliaments more involved in the European policy process. The present state of the Eurozone could be seen as a sort of political equilibrium, likely to be economically unstable.
Niklas Gadatsch, Tobias Körner, Isabel Schnabel, Benjamin Weigert, 03 June 2015
There is a broad consensus that financial supervision ought to include a macroprudential perspective that focuses on the stability of the entire financial system. This column presents and critically evaluates the newly-created macroprudential framework in the Eurozone, with a particular focus on Germany. It argues that, while based on the right principles, the EU framework grants supervisors a high degree of discretion that entails the risk of limited commitment and excessive fine-tuning. Further, monetary policy should not ignore financial stability considerations and expect macroprudential policy to do the job alone.
Lars Feld, Christoph Schmidt, Isabel Schnabel, Benjamin Weigert, Volker Wieland, 20 February 2015
Claims that ‘austerity has failed’ are popular, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world. This column argues that this narrative is factually wrong and ignores the reasons underlying the Greek crisis. The worst move for Greece would be to return to its old ways. Greece needs to realise that things could actually become much worse than they are now, particularly if membership in the Eurozone cannot be assured. Instead of looking back, Greece needs to continue building a functioning state and a functioning market economy.
Georg Ringe, Jeffrey Gordon, 28 January 2015
Bank resolution is a key pillar of the European Banking Union. This column argues that the current structure of large EU banks is not conducive to an effective and unbiased resolution procedure. The authors would require systemically important banks to reorganise into a ‘holding company’ structure, where the parent company holds unsecured term debt sufficient to cover losses at its operating financial subsidiaries. This would facilitate a ‘single point of entry’ resolution procedure, minimising the risk of creditor runs and destructive ring-fencing by national regulators.
Thorsten Beck, 10 November 2014
The ECB has published the results of its asset quality review and stress tests of Eurozone banks. This column argues that, while this process had clear shortcomings, it still constitutes a huge improvement over the three previous exercises in the EU. Nevertheless, the banking union is far from complete, and the biggest risk now is complacency. A long-term reform agenda awaits Europe.
Agnès Bénassy-Quéré, Alain Trannoy, Guntram Wolff, 22 July 2014
Tax harmonisation has been controversial since the establishment of the European Economic Community, and corporation tax proposals are currently on the table in the EU. Although tax competition can be beneficial, tax harmonisation could curb tax competition that leads to the under-provision of public goods or to burden-shifting from mobile to immobile tax bases. As yet, no agreement has been reached on any ambitious harmonisation plan for mobile tax bases. This column explores the possibility of implementing partial tax harmonisation for corporate taxation and the taxation of the banking sector.
Marco Buti, Philipp Mohl, 04 June 2014
Investment in the Eurozone is forecast to remain below trend until 2015, with a particularly large shortfall in the periphery. Low investment reduces aggregate demand, thus lowering short-term growth, and it also hampers medium-term growth through its effect on the capital stock. This column highlights three causes of low Eurozone investment – reduced public investment, financial fragmentation, and heightened uncertainty – and proposes a series of remedies.
Marco Buti, Maria Demertzis, João Nogueira Martins, 30 March 2014
Although progress has been made on resolving the Eurozone crisis – vulnerable countries have reduced their current-account deficits and implemented some reforms – more still needs to be done. This column argues for a ‘consistent trinity’ of policies: structural reforms within countries, more symmetric macroeconomic adjustment across countries, and a banking union for the Eurozone.
Viral Acharya, 14 March 2014
Viral Acharya talks to Viv Davies about his recent work with Sascha Steffen that, using publicly available data and a series of shortfall measures, estimates the capital shortfalls of EZ banks that will be stress-tested under the proposed Asset Quality Review. They also discuss the difference in accounting rules between US and EZ banks and the future potential for banking union in the Eurozone. The interview was recorded by phone on 25 February 2014.
Viral Acharya, Sascha Steffen, 17 January 2014
The Single Supervisory Mechanism – a key pillar of the Eurozone banking union – will transfer supervision of Europe’s largest banks to the ECB. Before taking over this role, the ECB will conduct an Asset Quality Review to identify these banks’ capital shortfalls. This column discusses recent estimates of these shortfalls based on publicly available data. Estimates such as these can defend against political efforts to blunt the AQR’s effectiveness. The results suggest that many banks’ capital needs can be met with common equity issuance and bail-ins, but that public backstops might still be necessary in some cases.
Willem Buiter, 10 January 2014
Fiscal sustainability has become a hot topic as a result of the European sovereign debt crisis, but it matters in normal times, too. This column argues that financial sector reforms are essential to ensure fiscal sustainability in the future. Although emerging market reforms undertaken in the aftermath of the financial crises of the 1990s were beneficial, complacency is not warranted. In the US, political gridlock must be overcome to reform entitlements and the tax system. In the Eurozone, creating a sovereign debt restructuring mechanism should be a priority.
Donato Masciandaro, Francesco Passarelli, 21 December 2013
During the Great Moderation, central banks focused on price stability, and independence was seen as crucial to limit inflation bias. Since the Global Financial Crisis, emergency support measures for banks, and central banks’ increasing involvement in supervision, have called central bank independence into question. This column argues that the literature has overlooked the distributional effects of the tradeoff between monetary and financial stability. In a political economy framework, heterogeneity in voters’ portfolios can cause the degree of central bank independence to differ from the social optimum.
Stefano Micossi, 30 November 2013
Of the three pillars of the nascent European banking union, establishing a unified bank-resolution mechanism is the most pressing issue. This column suggests some changes to the existing Single Resolution Mechanism proposals. The decision to initiate resolution should be left to the ECB and national resolution authorities. Debt automatically convertible into equity when capital thresholds are violated could partially replace liabilities subject to bail-in. The Single Bank Resolution Fund must be supranational to ensure the credibility of the mechanism.