Economic Imbalances and Institutional Changes to the Euro and the European Union: Volume 18
Table of contents(21 chapters)
Part I Institutional and Political Issues in the Policy Framework of the Eurozone
The aim of this chapter is to show the limits of the European policy model and to support the existence, through straightforward empirical analysis, of an inverse relationship both in the short run and in the long run between trust in institutions and unemployment. The empirical methodology relies on dynamic panel data techniques allowing measuring in a single equation both the long-run relationship and the short-run speed of adjustment among variables. This connection appears to be valid both in the Eurozone considered as a whole and in particular in peripheral countries, where the macroeconomic dynamics have been, under this respect, much more divergent from the average. This outcome allows proofing that to consolidate the European process of integration in the long run, institutions should have as main objective not only inflation but especially unemployment.
This chapter focuses on the impact of national economic conditions and voters’ attitudes on the positioning of European national political parties with regard to the European Union (EU). We provide an empirical analysis based on data gathered through the Chapel Hill Expert Survey (CHES) covering parties from 14 European countries observed over the 1999–2010 time span. We perform a regression analysis where the dependent variable measures the position of political parties vis-à-vis EU integration and explanatory variables include a number of measures of national economic conditions, features of the national political and institutional framework and voters’ Euroscepticism. Fixed effect, ordered logit and fractional logit estimates provide the following main results. Compared with other parties, non-mainstream political parties and those acting in established economies are more prone to mirror citizens’ Eurosceptic sentiments. National economic conditions such as inflation as well as gross domestic product (GDP) growth affect mainstream party support for the EU. Smaller and ideologically extreme parties are, on average, less supportive of European integration.
The Eurozone is characterized by large and persistent social inequalities and economic disparities alongside productive and technological asymmetries between its advanced and peripheral countries. This divergence has been expected from countries that have different social, economic, and political structures. However, without pragmatic interventionist policies, European integration has been very problematic and there can likely be more asymmetries and other difficulties as long as aggregate demand-based development action continues to be neglected.
The paper begins with a discussion of regional and industrial disparities and problems in the context of the European Union (EU) and Eurozone. The next main section evaluates European regional and industrial policies since the Second World War. The final parts conclude with a special reference to Japan and the United States, and a comparison between them and the EU, and offer alternative policy recommendations based on the developmental state line of argument.
This chapter analyzes the rules and institutions that have characterized the European Monetary Union (EMU) during its prolonged crisis, stressing the limits of the strategy pursued by the European authorities. It also examines the issues of current account imbalances, economic growth and the problem of debt, and their interconnections. The main purpose of this chapter is to indicate feasible economic solutions and political arrangements in order to complete the institutional system of the EMU. This requires appropriate reforms of its institutional architecture. But such reforms demand changes in the treaties in order to make the Eurosystem more consistent and endowed of democratic legitimacy, so to have appropriate tools, resources and policies that can contribute to the stability, cohesion and development of the Eurozone.
This chapter argues that monetary integration must precede, rather than follow, monetary unification, in order to avoid the occurrence of structural and systemic crises. It briefly overviews the relevant literature on european monetary union (EMU) with regard to the criteria to set up an optimum currency area (OCA) according to the mainstream view. It then points out that adopting the euro as single currency for a number of heterogeneous countries led inevitably to a number of major negative effects, so much so because of the counterproductive financial constraints induced by the Euro-area fiscal and monetary policies framework. Particularly, the lack of fiscal transfers between these countries and the dogmatic attitude of the European Central Bank (ECB) as regards its policy strategy and goal increase, rather than reducing, the unemployment rate, and the degree of financial instability across the euro area. In fact, a way out of the euro area exists without renouncing to the (long-run) benefits of monetary integration. It implies that countries whose population suffers most of “fiscal consolidation” introduce their national currencies again, limiting the use of the euro to their central banks only, in order for them to settle all international trade and financial-market transactions carried out by residents in these countries. This monetary–structural reform will be instrumental in increasing financial stability and employment levels across Europe, thereby inducing positive effects also for trade and public finance.
Part II Monetary Policy, the Banking System and Financial Integration
This paper investigates the European Central Bank’s (ECB) monetary policies. It identifies an anti-growth bias in the ECB’s monetary policy approach: the ECB is quick to hike, but slow to ease. Similarly, while other players and institutional deficiencies share responsibility for the euro’s failure, the bank has generally done “too little, too late” with regard to managing the euro crisis, preventing protracted stagnation, and containing deflation threats. The bank remains attached to the euro area’s official competitive wage repression strategy which is in conflict with the ECB’s price stability mandate and undermines the bank’s more recent unconventional monetary policy initiatives designed to restore price stability. The ECB needs a “Euro Treasury” partner to overcome the euro regime’s most serious flaw: the divorce between central bank and treasury institutions.
Quantitative Easing in the Eurozone
Quantitative easing (QE) is a new instrument of macroeconomic policy which if not born in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, was at least nurtured by this crisis. The paper looks at both the history and the theory of QE. We then examine its impact, both positive and negative on the economy. The use of QE helped governments deal with the immediate aftermath of the crisis and possibly prevented much sharper recessions than we witnessed. But in many ways its impact on the real economy has been limited and there are dangers in both the potential for substantial inflation to occur at some point in the future and the weakening of the financial sector. We argue that much of the literature misses the point that QE is funding government debt and spending, at a time when fiscal policy is in a period of, perhaps temporary, decline. Finally, we discuss whether QE will be a permanent feature of macroeconomic policy in the future, or whether it will be resorted to only occasionally?
Risk-sharing is a crucial issue in order to evaluate the performance of a monetary union. By implementing conventional econometric techniques, this paper intends to estimate the degree of risk-sharing through the cross-ownership of assets within 11 European countries in the period 1971–2014. We show that risk-sharing has been increasing after the launch of the euro due to increased cross-ownership of assets. Nevertheless, we also show that despite the extreme needs for adjustment mechanisms as a reaction to asymmetric shocks in the EMU during the crises, the estimated market risk-sharing mechanism seems to have remained marginal in this period. We also show that the degree of asymmetry (potential benefits from risk-sharing) has declined with the start of the EMU, but it has sharply increased during the crises period. This implies that EMU countries have needed good functioning risk-sharing mechanisms during the crisis, while in this period their estimated performance does not seem to have improved. We interpret these results as the evidence of a missing element of the EMU that forced governments to intervene by means of fiscal policy to tackle the imbalances deriving from the financial crisis. Therefore, we conclude that the weakness in the risk-sharing has been one of the channels that allowed the global financial crisis to mutate in a sovereign debt crisis in the EMU.
The global financial crisis of 2007/2008 interrupted the process of financial integration observed in the European Union since the beginning of the 2000s. This paper empirically analyzes whether financial integration resumed, focusing on the period 2002–2015 and employing the indicators of the speed and the level of integration. The analysis covers four financial markets (the money, foreign exchange, bond, and equity markets) of the selected inflation-targeting Central European economies (the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland), representatives of new euro area countries (Slovenia and Slovakia) and the selected advanced Western European economies (Austria, Germany, Portugal) with the euro area. The results reveal that the global financial crisis caused mainly a temporary price divergence of the financial markets in the analyzed countries vis-à-vis the euro area. By 2015 the situation on the financial markets returned gradually to the pre-crisis degree of integration with the euro area for most of the countries and markets; however, there are signs of fragmentation on the government bond markets.
The economic and financial crisis, especially the sovereign debt crisis, discovered many deficiencies and weaknesses in the banking sector in the European Union (EU). The need for special surveillance and supervision of cross-border banking cooperation and termination of the toxic link between sovereign debt and banking sector have accelerated the process of forming and establishing a Banking Union (BU). An integrated financial framework has been established in which the European Central Bank (ECB) through the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) has a key role and the responsibility for the overall supervision of the banking sector of the euro zone. The Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) and schemes of the Single Deposit Guarantee Mechanism (SDGM) are under the national supervisory authorities while the European Banking Authority (EBA) is responsible for developing the Single Rules. From the new architecture is expected the preservation of the single market and a common currency, breaking “toxic connections” between sovereign debt and banks, mitigation and removal of financial instability and economic growth. The research shows that the BU together with the ECB in a certain sense, also contributes to the normalization of credit and financial conditions in the single mark. Estimates through SSM, conducted by the ECB and the EBA, during, 2014 and 2015 on 107 banks in 21 countries indicate progress toward solvency and resilience of the banking system of the euro area. Despite some initial success the entire project BU seems to have missed on opportunities, resulted in late reactions, and was too complex to be feasible. The political will of national governments to give up sovereignty over its banking sector and transfer competencies to the supranational institutions is a key factor in the success or failure of a BU. It seems so but past experience indicates that there is no political willingness to solve problems. Mainly most of the government avoids cleaning a hidden “skeleton in closets” due to lack of means for recapitalization while some are trying for loans from the ECB to help their banks. The ECB plays a key oversight role at the EU level and has too much power, which can cause risks caused by conflicting goals. The ECB is losing the role of the final refuge of liquidity, which is the main disadvantage of a BU. The SSM is susceptible to criticism due to difficulty in operation because of slow incorporation of European legislation into national law. Slow implementation carries risks of fragmentation of the market, regardless of the responsibility of the ECB. The financial capacity of the temporary agreement with the SRM is insufficient in solving the crisis of more banks while procedural application is complex and time-consuming. Planned backstop with a centralized resource is a resolution that is insufficient for solving the failure of big systemic banks, which are too big to bail. The heterogeneity of the existing Deposit Guarantee Schemes (DGS) and the banking systems of the member states of the euro zone caused controversy in terms of setting of common insurance schemes. The procedures for the recovery and resolution of critical banks are problematic.
Part III Macroeconomic Imbalances and the Convergence Process
This chapter argues that the key Eurozone imbalances are not a failure of nation states. At the heart of the integration process is the convergence criteria – limits on government deficit, debt, interest rate, inflation, etc. While these were intended to eliminate asymmetries across countries, the conception of convergence was too narrow since the euro designers completely ignored the elephant in the room – that countries were on different technological frontiers. I show that this difference is an important determinant of the key macroeconomic imbalances across the Eurozone. It follows that the primary convergence criterion should be limits on non-price competitive gaps across countries. The chapter overturns the simplistic view of price competitiveness and illustrate that the regulating forces of competition originate from productive structures.
Asynchronous current account trends between North and South of the Euro Area were accompanied by significant appreciations of real exchange rate originating in the strong shifts in consumer prices and unit labor costs in the periphery economies relative to the core countries of the Euro Area. The issue is whether the real exchange rate is a significant driver of persisting current account imbalances in the Euro Area considering that, according to some authors, differences in domestic demand are more important than is often realized. In the paper we examine relative importance of real exchange rate and demand shocks according to the current account adjustments in the Euro Area member countries. Our results indicate that while the prices and costs related determinants of external competitiveness affected current account adjustments primarily during the pre-crisis period, demand drivers shaped current account balances mainly during the crisis period.
The last financial crisis opens the question of the level of debt sustainability in the developed countries. The majority of the EU member states faced the growing trend of public debt (while some countries are unable to service it on time, i.e. Greece) and some of the new members face the problem of external debt. Regarding there is no standard tool for measurement of public debt sustainability this analysis provides the statistical and econometric approach to find out bi-directional impact of public debt on GDP growth rate, unemployment, current account and interest rate spread. The research is performed on the five different groups of EU member states: EU28, Eurozone, new member states, GIIPS and EU-10-core countries. Results indicate the necessity to keep the public debt stable regarding the very slow post crisis recovery and low growth rates to avoid unintended consequences of debt burden on the EU economies.
In the euro’s initial years, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain observed capital flow bonanzas and credit-booms, two cycles known to precede banking crises. Domestic banks fuelled those cycles via funding obtained from foreign financial institutions. Yet, these countries’ banking and financial crises have unfolded in different modes. In Ireland and Spain, credit-booms propelled real-estate bubbles, which dragged banks into crises, with governments’ accounts later being affected when rescuing banks (Spanish regional banks, and all Irish major banks). In Greece and Italy, extra monetary means perpetuated government imbalances (e.g. debt levels above 100% of GDP, large yearly deficits). More severely in Greece, banks were brought into crises by sovereign crises. In Portugal, a mixture of private and public sector–led crises have occurred. Our comparative study finds that these crises: (1) are connected to shocks and imbalances caused by dangerous banking sector cycles during the monetary integration process; (2) were not mere expansions of the US subprime crisis; (3) were not only caused by country-specific features and institutions; and (4) followed distinct paths, therefore, a uniform model encompassing all post-euro crises cannot exist.
The objective of this chapter is to examine the recent experiences of capital flows and the associated fiscal imbalances since the inception of the Eurozone. We show that the standard explanation for understanding these fiscal imbalances and capital flows is viable, but is not complete given the unique circumstances surrounding these fiscal imbalances within the Eurozone. That is, the creation of the Eurozone provided some fiscal and monetary stability up until the shock of the 2008 Financial Crisis. After the 2008 Financial Crisis, the interaction between the current account and fiscal imbalances started to spread throughout the Eurozone members and many of these Eurozone members began to engage in policies in an attempt to restore stability and to stem capital outflows by implementing fiscal reforms. In fact, some of the Eurozone members attempted to restore their fiscal viability in response to the 2008 Financial Crisis, but not with much success. Thus, the Eurozone members, collectively, need to reexamine best practices to implement fiscal policies that are resistant to intense financial shocks. Empirically, we examined the following two hypotheses in this chapter via the Wald test statistic. The first hypothesis examined the effect of the own country fiscal imbalances within own country is uniform across all the Eurozone members. Then, the second hypothesis examined the fiscal imbalances of one Eurozone member do not have on other Eurozone members. The Wald test statistic rejected both hypotheses.
We analyze the determinants of the cyclical position in some Baltics and South-Eastern European countries as well as peripheral European countries over the period 2000–2013. Specifically, we consider a sample of eight economies: Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania for the sub-sample of Baltics and South-Eastern European economies; and Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain for the sub-sample covering EMU peripheral countries. To this end, we proceed in two steps. In the first, we simulate Taylor rules for each studied countries in order to see to what extent the effective monetary policy has suffered from an expansionary bias. Such analysis is conducted for both peripheral and Central, Eastern, and South-Eastern Europe (CESE) countries. In a second step, we compare the simulated Taylor rules for our selected CESE countries with the Eurozone Taylor rule. Our contribution is threefold. First we show that the ineffectiveness of monetary policy to face imbalances – and especially financial imbalances – suggest that the EU should adopt macroprudential measures. Second, the experience of CESE and Peripheral countries suggests that fiscal policy has tended to be pro-cyclical or at least neutral. Third, we underline the importance of using the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure as a tool to implement automatic adjustment mechanisms.
The unexpected Eurozone Sovereign Debt Crisis (2010–2012) aroused different attempts of interpretation among analysts and practitioners. While some attributed the crisis to a “contagion” effect of the Subprime Mortgages Financial Crisis in the United States (2007–2009), others saw in it an expression of deeper fundamental economic imbalances.
This chapter presents an evaluation of whether there is convergence or divergence in the sectorial international competitiveness of the Eurozone area countries. A Dynamic Panel Data analysis on country-level exports for all Eurozone members for a period that goes from 1993 to 2014 finds significant evidence of international competitiveness convergence in four- out of 10-export sectors, and no significant evidence of divergence in the rest. While that evidence is not consistent with the high expectations generated by monetary integration more than 15 years ago, those four sectors correspond to high value-added economic activities and, in that sense, indicate a more homogeneous productive modernization process is taking place in the area.
Sovereign Debt Crisis: Euro-Reality
In the domestic credit market creditor and debtor rights are clearly defined. In contrast, sovereign debt repayment is largely contingent on the debtor government’s willingness to repay as enforcement of contracts at the international level is limited. In this chapter we explore different sources of sovereign debt crises as opportunistic and myopic behavior by debtor nations, over-consumption of imported goods, credit temptation by lenders eager to allocate savings surpluses, and unexpected consequences of initially seen appropriate policies. We explore how these factors have played out in the Euro-debt crisis and outline a framework for creditor responsibility to complement debtor self-restraint.
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