A consistent trinity for the Eurozone
Marco Buti 08 January 2014
Though in the past two years substantial progress has been made in completing the structure of Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union, not all economic inconsistencies have been solved. This column discusses three main challenges that still need to be addressed. First, sound fiscal policies need to be conducted while keeping sustainable welfare systems. Second is the conflict between policy objectives and economic realities – vulnerable economies cannot reduce their debts and simultaneously gain competitiveness. Third, financial stability and integrated financial markets cannot be established unless the relationship between banks and their sovereigns is reformed. Addressing each of these challenges is important, and it could benefit all Eurozone members.
While it would be premature to declare victory, owing to sustained policy efforts at all institutional levels, major progress has been made in the past two years that has put Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) on much firmer ground. All strands of economic policymaking have been working together to overhaul economic governance, to ensure the efficient transmission of monetary policy, and to create effective financial firewalls. What made this possible was the clear political determination to safeguard the integrity and future of EMU.
EU policies Macroeconomic policy
eurozone, consistent trinity, Eurozone challenges
The ghost of Deauville
Ashoka Mody 07 January 2014
On 19 October 2010, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy agreed that in future, sovereign bailouts from the European Stability Mechanism would require that losses be imposed on private creditors. This agreement was blamed for the increase in sovereign spreads in late 2010 and early 2011. This column discusses recent research on the market reaction to the surprise announcement at Deauville. With the exception of Greece, the rise in spreads was within the range of variability established in the previous 20 days.
The aversion to debt restructuring in the Eurozone has been remarkable, even though public debt ratios in several countries are well above the IMF-identified critical debt overhang threshold of 100% of GDP (IMF 2012). By early 2010, some recognised the urgency of restructuring Greek public debt (Calomiris 2010). But the official position between late 2009 and early 2011 deemed even Greek debt to be sustainable. Beyond the particularities of Greece, general principles were invoked. In the words of Cottarelli et al.
Financial markets International finance
eurozone, sovereign debt, Eurozone crisis, sovereign debt restructuring, financial contagion, Deauville
Joint liability in international lending: A proposal for amending the Treaty of Lisbon
Kaushik Basu, Joseph Stiglitz 02 January 2014
The Eurozone crisis exposed weaknesses in the Eurozone’s design. This column – by Nobelist Joe Stiglitz and World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu – argues that the Eurozone’s financial architecture can be improved by amending the Treaty of Lisbon to permit appropriately structured cross-country liability for sovereign debt incurred by EZ members.
The sovereign debt crisis exposed weaknesses in the Eurozone’s financial architecture that may not have been fully anticipated when the founding treaties of the Eurozone were drafted. Key among these weak spots are the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon which regulate intergovernmental debt obligations and preclude direct financing of sovereigns by the ECB.
EU institutions International finance
eurozone, Maastricht Treaty, sovereign debt, moral hazard, Lisbon Treaty, Eurozone crisis, no-bailout clause
The Eurozone: If only it were the 1930s
Nicholas Crafts 13 December 2013
This column argues that the legacy of public debt resulting from the crisis in the Eurozone is a serious threat. Both the size of the problem and the options to address it make life much more difficult for policymakers than was the case in the late 1930s after the collapse of the gold standard. For some countries, a ‘subservient’ central bank might be preferable to the ECB.
The 1930s deservedly have a bad name. It is hard to imagine that a decade that included the Great Depression and a major de-globalisation of the world economy, and culminated in WWII could be other than notorious. And yet, compared with struggling Eurozone economies today, the economic situation in Europe in the later 1930s was in many ways more promising. This is particularly true of the aftermath of public debt and the difficulty of dealing with it.
Economic history Macroeconomic policy
ECB, eurozone, fiscal consolidation, public debt, gold standard, financial repression, debt monetisation
Moving closer? Changing patterns of labour mobility in Europe and the US
Mai Dao, Davide Furceri, Prakash Loungani 01 December 2013
Labour mobility is one of the keys to a successful currency union – be it within or across nations. This column discusses new evidence showing that the shock-absorbing role of migration has increased in Europe and declined in the US. During the Great Recession, European migration remained high – although not high enough given the vast differences across the Eurozone. Overall, Europe has strengthened this essential adjustment mechanism.
On 21 September 1992, four famous professors – Olivier Blanchard, Rudi Dornbusch, Stan Fischer, and Paul Krugman – took part in a panel discussion at MIT on the merits of the proposed European currency union. Echoing a view common among US-based academics at the time, all four agreed, according to a record of the event, that “a common European currency would have unfavourable economic repercussions.” Blanchard noted that “currency unification works in the US because labour can move between states. The labour mobility in Europe is negligible.”
eurozone, euro, currency union, labour mobility
The euro and price convergence: You wanted it … you got it!
Alberto Cavallo, Brent Neiman, Roberto Rigobon 29 November 2013
During the recent turmoil in the Eurozone, little attention has been paid to one of the euro’s founding objectives – price convergence. This column argues that the euro has in fact been very successful in this regard. In a study of the pricing behaviour of Apple, IKEA, H&M, and Zara, the authors find that price dispersion is 30–50% lower for countries in a currency union than for those with a fixed exchange rate.
Remember some of the objectives of the creation of the euro? A single currency area within Europe would carry with it:
- Enhanced factor mobility
- Greater productivity growth
- Acceleration of financial development; and
- Improved macroeconomic policies.
Or, at least, that was the hope (Wyplosz 1997).
Exchange rates International trade
eurozone, euro, real exchange rates, price convergence
An early-warning indicator for debt sustainability
Casper van Ewijk, Jasper Lukkezen, Hugo Rojas-Romagosa 28 November 2013
The sustainability of government debt cannot be determined with certainty. This column presents an early warning indicator to predict sovereign debt crises using a stochastic simulation framework. What counts is the risk of a significant rise in public debt, more so than the expected evolution of the debt level. A key determinant of the indicator is the quality of budgetary policies in controlling the government budget in the event of adverse shocks.
Insight into the sustainability of public finances is critical to European policymakers and financial markets alike. It informs decisions concerning the need for reform and the determination of the appropriate risk premium on government debt. Furthermore, unsustainable public finances may cause significant spillovers, highlighting the need for international fiscal surveillance. Recent experiences in Europe underscore how hard it is to foresee sovereign debt crises, with regard to both occurrence and depth; assessment of public finances is no easy task.
EU institutions Global crisis
eurozone, sovereign debt crisis
Currency wars and the euro
Jens Nordvig 25 November 2013
Having promised to do ‘whatever it takes’ to ensure the survival of the euro, the ECB now faces the problem of record high unemployment combined with a strong currency. There is accumulating evidence that the ECB is more willing to fight currency appreciation than the Bundesbank would have been. Capital inflows have been a key source of recent upward pressure on the euro. Should this continue, the ECB may need to intervene more aggressively in order to promote economic recovery in the Eurozone.
A new battle for the ECB to fight
Last year, the ECB entered an existential battle for the euro. By promising to do ‘whatever it takes’ to safeguard the euro, the ECB managed to calm sovereign debt markets and engineer a much-needed easing of overall credit conditions in the Eurozone.
EU institutions Exchange rates Monetary policy
ECB, eurozone, euro, unemployment, Bundesbank, Currency wars
Global and Eurozone imbalances: A question of civic capital?
Sascha Bützer, Christina Jordan, Livio Stracca 23 November 2013
Since the advent of the Eurozone sovereign-debt crisis, economic commentators have drawn attention to macroeconomic imbalances within the Eurozone. This column presents evidence on the link between macroeconomic imbalances and differences in culture – or more specifically, interpersonal trust. A conservative estimatation suggests that a one standard-deviation increase in trust reduces macroeconomic imbalances by about a quarter of a standard deviation. Moreover, differences in interpersonal trust can explain a fifth of the variation in intra-Eurozone imbalances.
Macroeconomic imbalances have been the subject of much debate in recent years, and are still in the spotlight. Before and during the financial crisis, a lot of attention was devoted to global imbalances – in particular to the persistent current-account deficits of some countries (such as the US) and the persistent surpluses of others (such as China). With the advent of the Eurozone sovereign-debt crisis, the attention has shifted to imbalances within the Eurozone.
Europe's nations and regions International trade
eurozone, global imbalances, trust, World Values Survey, civic capital
A bank restructuring agency for the Eurozone – cleaning up the legacy losses
Thorsten Beck, Christoph Trebesch 18 November 2013
Many Eurozone banks are still in a fragile state following the Global Crisis. This vulnerability will be highlighted as the ECB takes charge of bank supervision, and the EZ moves towards a banking union. This column proposes a Eurozone bank restructuring agency as a way to speed up the crisis resolution. This temporary, centralised agency would be in charge of restructuring viable and non-viable banks throughout the Eurozone. Solving the problem of legacy assets is a necessary step towards a banking union.
At the core of the Eurozone crisis is the deadly embrace between banks and governments. Sovereign fragility has led to pressure on banks’ balance sheets. The weak fiscal position of governments in many periphery countries, on the other hand, has led to delays in recognising bank problems and addressing them (Acharya et al., 2012). The situation, however, also has a political dimension, as regulators in many European countries have become too close to the regulated entities.
EU institutions Financial markets
eurozone, banking crises, bank restructuring agency