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"
The Euro Plus Pact: Competitiveness and External Capital Flows in the EU Countries
in: Journal of Common Market Studies, No. 3, 2015
The Euro Plus Pact was approved by the European Union countries in March 2011. The pact stipulates various measures to strengthen competitiveness with the ultimate aim of preventing accumulation of unsustainable external imbalances. This article uses Granger causality tests to assess the short-term linkages between changes in relative unit labour costs and changes in the current account balance for the period 1995–2011. The main finding is that changes in the current account balance precede changes in relative unit labour costs, while there is no discernible effect in the opposite direction. This suggests that capital flows from the European core to the periphery contributed to the divergence in unit labour costs across Europe prior to the global financial crisis. The results also suggest that the measures to restrain unit labour costs may have only limited effect on the current account balance in the short term.
Risikobewertung von Staatsanleihen im Euroraum während der Staatsschuldenkrise von Ansteckungseffekten getrieben
in: Wirtschaft im Wandel, No. 1, 2015
Die europäische Staatsschuldenkrise hat in vielen Ländern zu Zinsaufschlägen auf Staatsanleihen geführt. Dies war vor allem in den Jahren 2010 und 2011 in Ländern wie Griechenland, Italien oder Spanien zu beobachten. Zur gleichen Zeit blieben die Kreditrisiken deutscher oder französischer Staatsanleihen auf einem moderaten Niveau. Trotz der unterschiedlichen Entwicklung in den Niveaus findet man ein hohes Maß an Gleichbewegung von Kreditrisiken in den Ländern des Euroraums. Dieser Beitrag untersucht, inwieweit dies durch strukturelle Ähnlichkeiten, internationale Verflechtungen und globale Marktentwicklungen erklärt werden kann.
Switching to Exchange Rate Flexibility? The Case of Central and Eastern European Inflation Targeters
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.
Post-transition Regions as Locations for Foreign Direct Investment of Multinational Enterprises
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.
Ten Years after Accession: State Aid in Eastern Europe
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...