25 Years IWH

Europe in crisis

Economic, refugee and confidence crises. The EU is currently having to fight on many fronts at the same time.




In short

It was back in 2007 that the US property bubble burst, sparking the global economic crisis. The collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank in 2008 marked the first low-point of the financial crisis. For the European Union, however, the danger was by no means over: the billions of euros of tax revenue that had to be used to protect banks from insolvency soon plunged European countries into a debt crisis, and shortly thereafter into the Euro crisis. Greece in particular faced a huge loss of confidence on the international financial markets - from which Germany gained significant benefit, by the way.

Our expert


European decision-makers were confronted with huge challenges, most notably the European Central Bank (ECB). In order to revive the economy, it has been pursuing a much-criticised excessively low interest rate policy for years, even though this is expected to benefit German households. Since 2015, the ECB has been buying bonds from European institutions and States - an extremely well-founded measure. Since June 2016, it has also been buying corporate bonds and published the results of its second stress test round in July 2016.

"ECB is one of the few institutions contributing to the solution."

It is clear that the ECB is implementing specific measures to provide new impetus and increased security to the European economy. “It is one of the few institutions contributing to the solution,” according to Reint E. Gropp, President of the IWH. “But a sustainable solution requires far more decisive political action”. Because new calculations by the IWH also show that the reserves of the European banks are increasing at the ECB - a highly unusual situation.

The refugee crisis is the EU's second major front. A lack of cooperation between Member States has allowed the humanitarian crisis to spread and intensify. And the agreement with Turkey also appears to be precarious. Leading European politicians must now quickly find solutions to the many challenges that have arisen as a result of refugee migration: humanitarian aid, distribution and immigrants' integration into the employment market. And science must also provide analyses and potential solutions. The Leibniz Research Alliance, “Crisis in a Globalised World”, has also investigated the refugee crisis, for example.

On a third front, the EU is battling the dwindling confidence of its citizens. In addition to the growing popularity of Euro-sceptic parties in Member States, the crisis of confidence has further manifested itself in the form of Brexit. A further break-up of the EU can only be prevented, however, if Europe's leading politicians, most notably the new French President, Emmanuel Macron, and Angela Merkel, take a clear stance. The election of Donald Trump in the US has also resulted in further uncertainty for Europe.

Crises are always an opportunity for change. It's no secret that there is improvement potential in many areas of the EU. Perhaps Europe's crises will finally initiate major change processes: improvements in the democratic legitimacy of the EU institutions, less regulation in employment and product markets, a reduction in bureaucracy in both the EU and its Member States, the broad implementation of the capital market union and a new emphasis on EU spending. Only then will the EU be sustainable, prepared for future financial crises, with or without Great Britain, and strengthened by a new cohesion.

Current IWH Publications

Switching to Exchange Rate Flexibility? The Case of Central and Eastern European Inflation Targeters

Andrej Drygalla

in: FIW Working Paper, Nr. 139 , No. 139, 2015


This paper analyzes changes in the monetary policy in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland following the policy shift from exchange rate targeting to inflation targeting around the turn of the millennium. Applying a Markovswitching dynamic stochastic general equilibrium model, switches in the policy parameters and the volatilities of shocks hitting the economies are estimated and quantified. Results indicate the presence of regimes of weak and strong responses of the central banks to exchange rate movements as well as periods of high and low volatility. Whereas all three economies switched to a less volatile regime over time, findings on changes in the policy parameters reveal a lower reaction to exchange rate movements in the Czech Republic and Poland, but an increased attention to it in Hungary. Simulations for the Czech Republic and Poland also suggest their respective central banks, rather than a sound macroeconomic environment, being accountable for reducing volatility in variables like inflation and output. In Hungary, their favorable developments can be attributed to a larger extent to the reduction in the size of external disturbances.

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Post-transition Regions as Locations for Foreign Direct Investment of Multinational Enterprises

Andrea Gauselmann

in: Hochschulschrift, Online-Publikation , 2014


Multinational enterprises invest abroad to tap into location-specific advantages and to enhance their own competitiveness. At the same time, they increase productivity and industrial up-grading in the region of location and can be considered agents of technological and economic development. The aim of the thesis is to contribute to current research by investigating, which determinants and motives influence foreign investors to locate in European post-transition economies, how they appraise the quality of location factors on-site and under which conditions a knowledge and technology transfer takes place between the foreign owned firm and domestic firms, thereby leading to a better understanding of what is the impact and benefit of foreign investment in these regions.

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Ten Years after Accession: State Aid in Eastern Europe

Jens Hölscher Nicole Nulsch

in: European State Aid Law Quarterly , No. 2, 2014


In the early phase of transition that started with the 1990s, Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) have pursued far-reaching vertical and individual industrial policy with a focus on privatisation and restructuring of traditional industries. Foreign investment from the West and the facilitation of the development of a market economy also involved massive injections of State support. With their accession to the European Union (EU), levels and forms of State aid came under critical review by the European Commission. Now that a first decade has passed since the first Eastern enlargement in 2004, this inquiry investigates how State aid policy in the CEECs has developed during the last...

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