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"
Kommentar: Großbritanniens Nein zur EU wird für beide Seiten teuer
in: Wirtschaft im Wandel, No. 3, 2016
Die Briten haben sich überraschend klar gegen einen Verbleib ihres Landes in der Europäischen Union entschieden. Das Ausscheiden Großbritanniens aus der EU hat nicht nur politisch, sondern auch ökonomisch tiefgreifende Konsequenzen für das Land selbst, aber auch für das übrige Europa. Entscheidend ist jetzt die Reaktion der verbleibenden Länder auf das Votum, insbesondere die Frankreichs und Deutschlands.
EFN Report Summer 2016: Economic Outlook for the Euro Area in 2016 and 2017
in: EFN Reports, No. 3, 2016
Short run consequences of Brexit for the euro area economy mainly depend on the effects on confidence in the stability of the European Union and the currency area in particular. Anti-European (or indeed anti-globalization) movements are certainly encouraged by the British vote. More important, however, might be a reverse effect: from the perspective of the British turmoil, the euro area might in the near future appear as a zone of relative stability and calm. Against the background of a sluggish world economy, the euro area economy recently performed reasonably well: dynamics have been slowly increasing since 2013, and the rate of expansion in the first quarter of 2016 was one of the highest of the past couple of years. Looking forward, the drivers of the recovery should continue supporting growth in the second half of 2016 and for much of 2017. Our forecast is that euro area GDP will expand by 1.7% in 2016 and by 1.6% in 2017, with only a minor effect from Brexit. This year, like in 2015, average oil prices will probably be markedly lower than they were a year ago, supporting real incomes of private households and lowering production costs of firms, and monetary policy will still be supportive. Labour markets appear to continue improving slowly. Associated with the improved economic conditions, we expect a slight increase in euro area inflation during 2016, 0.3%, with a more marked increase in 2017, 1,3%.
FDI, Human Capital and Income Convergence — Evidence for European Regions
in: Economic Systems, No. 2, 2016
This study examines income convergence in regional GDP per capita for a sample of 269 regions within the European Union (EU) between 2003 and 2010. We use an endogenous broad capital model based on foreign direct investment (FDI) induced agglomeration economies and human capital. By applying a Markov chain approach to a new dataset that exploits micro-aggregated sub-national FDI statistics, the analysis provides insights into regional income growth dynamics within the EU. Our results indicate a weak process of overall income convergence across EU regions. This does not apply to the dynamics within Central and East European countries (CEECs), where we find indications of a poverty trap. In contrast to FDI, regional human capital seems to be associated with higher income levels. However, we identify a positive interaction of FDI and human capital in their relation with income growth dynamics.
Von der Transformation zur europäischen Integration: Auf dem Weg zu mehr Wachstumsdynamik – ein Tagungsbericht
in: Wirtschaft im Wandel, No. 2, 2016
Unter dem Titel „Von der Transformation zur europäischen Integration: Auf dem Weg zu mehr Wachstumsdynamik“ hat das Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung Halle (IWH) gemeinsam mit Partnern aus Universitäten in Mitteldeutschland am 22. Februar 2016 Forschungsergebnisse zu den Folgen des Strukturwandels, zur Erzielung von mehr Wachstumsdynamik und den wirtschaftspolitischen Rahmenbedingungen hierfür präsentiert.
EFN Report Spring 2016: Economic Outlook for the Euro Area in 2016 and 2017
No. 2, 2016
Global growth will stay rather moderate this year. The peak of the upswing in the US appears to be over. For Japan, after three years of “Abenomics”, a prolonged upswing is still elusive. In China low profitability and high debt levels of many government-owned industrial firms continue to drag growth down. The low prices for commodities heighten uncertainty and volatility on financial markets since they increase the risks of financial crises in economies that are dependent on commodity exports. In the euro area, chances for the recovery to continue are good, as this year, like in 2015, oil prices will probably be markedly lower than they were a year ago, supporting real income of private households and lowering production costs of firms. In this context, our forecast is that euro area GDP will expand by 1.6% in 2016 and by 1.7% in 2017. These rates are higher than the rate of potential growth, but they are arguably low given the expansive monetary policy and the strong stimulus from decreased commodity prices. We do not expect an increase in euro area inflation during 2016, but prices will grow by around 1% in 2017, because the dampening effects of decreasing energy prices slowly fade off and the euro remains rather weak. However, risks for this cautiously optimistic forecast are substantial. New shadows on the financial sector, the uncertainty about whether or not the British will vote in favour of membership in the European Union and the lack of a viable political solution for the refugee crisis are some of the main uncertainties behind these forecasts.