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"
EFN Report Spring 2018: Economic Outlook for the Euro Area in 2018 and 2019
in: EFN Reports, No. 2, 2018
• The world economy is booming. The global upswing is investment-driven, and since investment goods usually have a large import content, it is no surprise that world trade has been buoyant during winter. The very expansionary US fiscal policy (tax reform and lifting of spending caps) could give an additional shortterm stimulus for the world economy. • However, we forecast world trade to slow down during 2018. The US administration’s announcement of high tariffs on steel and aluminium comes close to triggering a spiral into a broader trade conflict. Moreover, the globalization of value chains has been slowing down since the financial crisis due to the industrial upgrading in China and in other emerging economies that has declined processing trade. In addition, some types of manufacturing jobs have returned to source countries (reshoring) in response to technology innovation and lower labour costs differentials. • The euro area is in the middle of a broad based cyclical upswing. Higher exports and improved expectations have induced firms to invest more into equipment, as capacity utilization has been above average for some time now and is still increasing, and financing costs are very low. However, recent soft indicators, but also industrial production have been surprisingly downbeat, and there was some turbulence in financial markets, which suggests some caution. • The ECB will probably stop its asset purchase program at the end of 2018, but only later in 2019 start raising interest rates. Fiscal policy in the euro area is slightly expansionary this year, and a notable fiscal stimulus in France and in Germany is to be expected for 2019. • Overall, we forecast euro area GDP to expand by 2.2% in 2018 and by 1.6% in 2019. Accelerating wage dynamics will, together with higher price setting powers of firms and the recent increase in oil prices, cause consumer price inflation rising to nearly to 2% in 2019. Uncertainty, is however substantial, as a slight slowdown cannot be ruled out, which would also impact inflation dynamics.
EFN Report Winter 2017/18: Economic Outlook for the Euro Area in 2018 and 2019
in: EFN Reports, No. 1, 2018
With advanced economies likely to face over-utilization of economic capacities in 2018 for the first time since the Great Recession, companies will further expand their investment activities. Price and wage dynamics will pick up globally, triggered by the recent increase in energy prices. A major risk for the world economy pertains to financial markets: measures for risk tolareance and valuations for many types of assets have approached levels last reached ten years ago, on the eve of the financial crisis. A sudden readjustment of asset prices and risk premia could worsen financial conditions globally and seriously affect the global economy. The cyclical upswing of the euro area economy continues. The recovery, under way since summer 2013, transformed into an upswing in autumn 2016 when demand from outside the euro area increased quite abruptly; higher exports and improved expectations have contrinuted to induce firms to invest more into equipment. Wage dynamics in the euro area appear to increase, but only slowly. An annual growth rate for hourly wage costs of about 2% is still not enough to put upward pressure on prices, but this will change eventually as the cyclical upswing is likely to continue. Inflation will, according to our forecast, reach the ECB’s target of below but close to 2% in the second half of 2019. Conditions for further healthy growth in the euro area are in place, but employment dynamics might markedly lose momentum in some member countries in the second half of 2018, as the potential labour force is becoming more and more exhausted. Overall, we forecast euro area GDP to grow by 2.2% in 2018 and by 1.5% in 2019.
Politically Connected Firms in Poland and Their Access to Bank Financing
in: Communist and Post-Communist Studies, No. 4, 2017
This paper characterizes politically connected firms and their access to bank financing. We determine that the relationship between political connections and access to long-term bank loans is weaker in Poland than in other emerging economies. The most probable explanation for this result is related to the instability of the political climate in Poland. We find that only certain kinds of political connections, such as recent connections, positively influenced access to bank financing during the sample period from 2001 to 2011. Moreover, we obtain also some evidence that the value of political connections increased during the 2007 crisis period and onward.
How Can We Boost Competition in the Services Sector?
in: Externer Herausgeberband, Nomos, 2017
‘How Can We Boost Competition in the Services Sector?’ is a key question in the process of creating a more effi-cient economic environment in Germany. This book contains a collection of conference contributions on service sector reforms from members of academic institutions, ministries, the EU Commission and other organisations. The conference consisted of a keynote on the importance and implementation of structural reforms in Europe and two panels that dealt with the evaluation of past reforms in the services sector and the potential scope and effects of further reforms. Since the 1990s, productivity growth in Germany and other Member States of the European Union has been significantly lower than in the US. The development of productivity growth in the services sector is estimated to account for two thirds of this widening gap. The European Commission advocated reforms in the services sector in its country-specific recommendations for Germany. At a conference in Berlin in July 2016, experts from various fields presented and discussed studies on service sector reforms.
in: Wirtschaft im Wandel, No. 3, 2017
Deutschland hat gewählt. Die Wahl hat große Verluste für die Volksparteien SPD und CDU gebracht, beide sind auf historische Tiefststände in der Wählergunst gesunken. Zusammen haben CDU und SPD nur noch knapp 54% der Stimmen; der Tag, an dem eine so genannte Große Koalition keine Mehrheit mehr haben wird, scheint nicht mehr fern. Für die CDU waren die Verluste noch deutlich dramatischer als für die SPD, was aber nicht so sehr ins Gewicht fällt, weil die CDU noch immer stärkste Partei ist und die Kanzlerin stellen kann. Allerdings kann sie nicht alleine regieren. Nachdem die SPD sich zumindest vorläufig (wenn auch nicht völlig glaubwürdig) aus der Regierungsbildung verabschiedet hat, bleibt also nur eine Jamaika-Koalition zwischen CDU, FDP und den Grünen.