Greece on a tightrope

By Céline Antonin, Raul Sampognaro, Xavier Timbeau and Sébastien Villemot

This text summarizes the special study, “Greece on a tightrope”

Since early 2015, Greece’s new government has been facing intense pressure. At the very time that it is negotiating to restructure its debt, it is also facing a series of repayment deadlines. On 12 May 2015, 750 million euros was paid to the IMF by drawing on the country’s international reserves, a sign that liquidity constraints are becoming more and more pressing, as is evidenced by the letter sent by Alex Tsipras to Christine Lagarde a few days before the deadline. The respite will be short: in June, the country has to make another payment to the IMF for 1.5 billion euros. These first two deadlines are only a prelude to the “wall of debt” that the government must deal with in the summer when it faces repayments of 6.5 billion euros to the ECB. Continue reading “Greece on a tightrope”

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The Greek Sisyphus and its public debt: towards an end to the ordeal?

By Céline Antonin

After its failure to elect a new President by a qualified majority vote, the Greek Parliament was dissolved, with early elections to be held on 25 January 2015. The radical left party Syriza is leading the opinion polls on the election, ahead of the “New Democracy” party of the outgoing Prime Minister, Anthony Samaras. While Syriza’s economic programme has met with enthusiasm from the population, it has aroused concern from the Troika of creditors (IMF, ECB and EU), particularly on three issues: the country’s potential withdrawal from the euro zone, the implementation of a fiscal stimulus, and a partial sovereign default. This last topic will be the main issue after the elections. Continue reading “The Greek Sisyphus and its public debt: towards an end to the ordeal?”

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Labour market reform in Italy: Matteo Renzi up against the wall

By Céline Antonin

While Matteo Renzi had enjoyed a relative “state of grace” since his election in February 2014, the Senate vote in early December on the hotly disputed reform of the labour market (the Jobs Act) has led to a general strike, a first since he took office. Is this the end of Matteo Renzi’s honeymoon with the Italian people? Although his ascension to power had sparked a wave of hope, the initial results have been disappointing. The reforms are going down poorly as Italy experiences its third consecutive year of recession (-0.2% growth forecast in 2014), and the country is facing criticism from the European Commission for its inability to reduce its structural deficit. This reform is inspired by a free market approach and aims to introduce a flexi-security system. The measure that is the particular focus of passion would remove Article 18 of the Labour Code, which allows reinstatement in the case of unfair dismissal. Continue reading “Labour market reform in Italy: Matteo Renzi up against the wall”

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Banking Europe: Strength in the Union?

By Céline Antonin and Vincent Touzé

On 4 November 2014, the European Central Bank became the single supervisor of banks in the euro zone. This was the first step in the banking union.

The economic and financial crisis that started in 2007 has exposed several European weaknesses: Continue reading “Banking Europe: Strength in the Union?”

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Changes in taxation in Europe from 2000 to 2012: A few analytical points

By Céline Antonin, Félix de Liège and Vincent Touzé

There is great diversity to Europe’s tax systems, reflecting the choices of sovereign States with differentiated destinies. Since the Treaty of Rome, the Member States have steadily refused to give up national authority over taxation, with the exception of a minimum level of coordination on value-added tax (VAT). Europe now faces a real risk of a rise in non-cooperative tax strategies, with each country seeking to improve its economic performance at the expense of the others. This kind of aggressive strategy is being fuelled by two factors: on the one hand, a drive for competitiveness (fiscal devaluation), aimed at reducing the tax burden on businesses so as to improve price competitiveness; and on the other, a drive for fiscal advantage, aimed at luring the rarest factors of production to the national territory. On a macroeconomic level, it is difficult to distinguish clearly between these two factors. However, one way of understanding how the European states have improved their position may be to look at how the tax burden on business has evolved in comparison with the burden on households.

Continue reading “Changes in taxation in Europe from 2000 to 2012: A few analytical points”

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Euro zone: Recovery or deflation?

By Céline Antonin, Christophe Blot, Sabine Le Bayon and Danielle Schweisguth

This text summarizes the OFCE’s forecast for 2014-2015 for the euro zone economy

Will the euro zone embark on the road to recovery, or will it sink into a deflationary spiral? The latest macroeconomic indicators are sending out conflicting signals. A return to growth is being confirmed, with three consecutive quarters of rising GDP. However, the level of unemployment in the euro zone remains at a historically high level (11.9% for the month of February 2014), which is fuelling deflationary pressures, as is confirmed by the latest figures on inflation (0.5% yoy for March 2014). While this reduction in inflation is partly due to changes in energy prices, the fact remains that underlying inflation has fallen under 1% (Figure 1). In these conditions, a turnaround in inflationary expectations cannot be excluded, which would undoubtedly push the euro zone into deflation. The ECB has been concerned about this situation for several weeks and says it is ready to act (see here). However, no concrete proposal for a way to ease monetary policy and ensure that expectations are not anchored on a deflationary trajectory has been set out. Continue reading “Euro zone: Recovery or deflation?”

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Regulating the financial activities of Europe’s banks: a fourth pillar for the banking union

By Céline Antonin, Henri Sterdyniak and Vincent Touzé

At the impetus of EU Commissioner Michel Barnier, on 29 January 2014 the European Commission proposed new regulations aimed at limiting and regulating the commercial activities of banks “of systemic importance”, that is to say, the infamous “too big to fail” (TBTF). Continue reading “Regulating the financial activities of Europe’s banks: a fourth pillar for the banking union”

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Latvia: goodbye lats, hello euro!

By Céline Antonin

On 1 January 2014, Latvia will become the 18th member of the euro zone, two years after its Estonian neighbour. From a European perspective, Latvia’s entry into the “euro club” may seem of merely incidental importance. The country accounts for only 0.2% of euro zone GDP, and its integration is above all politically symbolic – it represents the culmination of the fiscal and monetary efforts undertaken by the country, which was hit hard by the crisis in 2008-2009 that slashed its GDP by almost a fifth. Continue reading “Latvia: goodbye lats, hello euro!”

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Europe’s banks: sustaining the renewal of confidence

By Céline Antonin and Vincent Touzé

Since August 2012, bank shares in the stock markets have risen and their volatility has reduced, attesting to a return of confidence. Is this newfound confidence sustainable? OFCE Note no. 36 of 11 December 2013 attempts to answer this question by taking stock of the state of the banks in late 2013. Continue reading “Europe’s banks: sustaining the renewal of confidence”

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The euro zone quartered

By Céline AntoninChristophe Blot, Sabine Le Bayon and Danielle Schweisguth

This text summarizes the OFCE’s 2013-2014 forecast for the euro zone economy.

After six quarters of decline, GDP in the euro zone has started to grow again in the second quarter of 2013. This upturn in activity is a positive signal that is also being corroborated by business surveys. It shows that the euro zone is no longer sinking into the depths of depression. It would nevertheless be premature to conclude that a recovery is underway, as the level of quarterly growth (0.3%) is insufficient to cause any significant reduction in unemployment. In October 2013, the unemployment rate stabilized at 12% of the workforce, a record high. Above all, the crisis is leaving scars and creating new imbalances (unemployment, job insecurity and wage deflation) that will act as obstacles to future growth, especially in certain euro zone countries. Continue reading “The euro zone quartered”

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