The new Europe
The financial crisis is largely over, yet confidence in the ECB and EU remains low. Thanks to Brexit and populism, there is currently no shortage of challenges – nor of a visionary upswing in some parts of Europe.
In a nutshell
Billions in taxpayers' money has been spent rescuing banks since the financial crisis erupted in 2008. From the debt crisis to the euro crisis, the EU stumbled from one low point to the next. Greece in particular had to contend with a loss of confidence on the international financial markets – from which Germany gained considerable benefit, by the way. The refugee crisis followed in 2015, with the Brexit referendum in the UK and the election of Donald Trump in 2016. But new visionaries also took to the international stage, including the new French President, Emmanuel Macron.
In order to reboost the economy, the European Central Bank (ECB) has been pursuing a much criticised excessively low interest rate policy for years, which we can assume is benefitting German households, however. Since 2015, the ECB has been buying bonds from European institutions and states – a measure for which there are justifiable grounds. Since June 2016, it has also been buying corporate bonds, and published the results of the second stress test round in July 2016.
"ECB is one of the few institutions contributing to the solution."
It turns out that the ECB is taking specific action to continue providing momentum and 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 to achieve a sustainable solution, politicians need to act much more decisively." However, countries are different as to how quickly they implement reforms and hand oversight over to EU-institutions.
The refugee crisis was and still is one of the EU's main stumbling blocks. A lack of cooperation between member states has allowed the humanitarian crisis to continue to spread, with immigration and the distribution of refugees remaining a critical issue, despite the EU-Turkey Agreement. Immigrants' integration into the labour market, especially in Germany, will remain a political challenge for decades. But science must also provide analyses and potential solutions. For example, the Leibniz Association's "Crises of a globalised world" research network has addressed the issue of the refugee crisis.
Migration was and is a constant issue when it comes to Brexit. But the UK's decision to leave the EU also touched on other economic dimensions: Even before the referendum, an IWH study had already suggested that the pound would react strongly to the UK's departure. With the increasing likelihood of Brexit, more than 50% of researchers asked by Thomas Krause predicted a significant devaluation of the pound against other currencies, including the euro. Stock market price volatility therefore reached record levels ahead of the referendum. "This turbulence reflected the uncertainty that was and is associated with the Brexit decision", states Gropp. The President takes a calm view the fate of London's financial centre, however: "London's financial centre will retain its dominant position within Europe despite Brexit. This is based on both the experience gained from the introduction of the euro and is also due to London's considerable location factors: the size of the city, the regulatory environment and its human assets." Should the United Kingdom withdraw from the EU in a „hard Brexit“ in March 2019, exports to Great Britain are likely to decline. Export-oriented EU countries such as France and Germany, as well as important suppliers like China would suffer job losses. In Germany, the car industry would be most affected.
On a third front, the EU is fighting for the confidence of its citizens. But while on the one hand, the popularity levels of eurosceptic parties rose or national conservative parties even governed some Member States in the past, the EU also appears to be reinventing itself: Neither Brexit nor the election of Donald Trump in the US have fractured the EU. On the contrary. Despite meeting with domestic resistance, French president Emmanuel Macron is a committed European. The EU also now aims to close ranks when it comes to defense.
Crises are always an opportunity for change. It is no secret that the EU has potential for improvement in many respects. Perhaps this new momentum will finally trigger other important change processes: improvements to the democratic legitimacy of the EU institutions, less regulation of the labour and product markets, a reduction in bureaucracy both in the EU and its member states, the implementation of the capital markets union and a new weighting for EU spending. This is the only way for the EU to remain sustainable – prepared for future financial crises and strengthened by new cohesion.
Publications on "The New Europe"
On the Risk of a Sovereign Debt Crisis in Italy
in: Intereconomics, forthcoming
The intention for the Italian government to stimulate business activity via large increases in government spending is not in line with the stabilisation of the public debt ratio. Instead, if such policy were implemented, the risk of a sovereign debt crisis would be high. In this article, we analyse the capacity of the Italian economy to shoulder sovereign debt under different scenarios. We conclude that focusing on growth enhancing structural reforms, would allow for moderate increases in public expenditure.
Delay Determinants of European Banking Union Implementation
in: European Journal of Political Economy, 2019
Most countries in the European Union (EU) delay the transposition of European Commission (EC) directives, which aim at reforming banking supervision, resolution, and deposit insurance. We compile a systematic overview of these delays to investigate if they result from strategic considerations of governments conditional on the state of their financial, regulatory, and political systems. Transposition delays pertaining to the three Banking Union directives differ considerably across the 28 EU members. Bivariate regression analyses suggest that existing national bank regulation and supervision drive delays the most. Political factors are less relevant. These results are qualitatively insensitive to alternative estimation methods and lag structures. Multivariate analyses highlight that well-stocked deposit insurance schemes speed-up the implementation of capital requirements, banking systems with many banks are slower in implementing new bank rescue and resolution rules, and countries with a more intensive sovereign-bank nexus delay the harmonization of EU deposit insurance more.
Drivers of Systemic Risk: Do National and European Perspectives Differ?
in: Journal of International Money and Finance, 2019
With the establishment of the Banking Union, the European Central Bank has been granted the power to impose stricter regulations than the national regulator if systemic risks are not adequately addressed at the national level. We ask whether there is a cross-border externality in the sense that a bank’s systemic risk differs when applying a national versus a European perspective. On average, banks’ contribution to systemic risk is similar at the two regional levels, and so is the ranking of banks. Generally, larger banks and banks with a lower share of loans are more systemically important. The effects of these variables are qualitatively but not quantitatively similar at the national versus the European level.
Potential International Employment Effects of a Hard Brexit
in: IWH Discussion Papers, No. 4, 2019
We use the World Input Output Database (WIOD) to estimate the potential employment effects of a hard Brexit in 43 countries. In line with other studies we assume that imports from the European Union (EU) to the UK will decline by 25% after a hard Brexit. The absolute effects are largest in big EU countries which have close trade relationships with the UK like Germany and France. However, there are also large countries outside the EU which are heavily affected via global value chains like China, for example. The relative effects (in percent of total employment) are largest in Malta and Ireland. UK employment will also be affected via intermediate input production. Within Germany, the motor vehicle industry and in particular the “Autostadt” Wolfsburg are most affected.
The Case for a European Rating Agency: Evidence from the Eurozone Sovereign Debt Crisis
in: Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, 2019
Politicians frequently voice that European bond issuers would benefit from the presence of a Europe-based rating agency. We take Fitch as a prototype for such an agency. With its ownership structure and a headquarter in London, Fitch is more European than Moody’s and S&P; during the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis, it also issued more favorable ratings. Fitch’s rating actions, however, were largely ignored by the bond market. Our results thus cast doubt on the benefits of a European credit rating agency.