European unemployment insurance

By Léo Aparisi de Lannoy and Xavier Ragot

The return of growth cannot eradicate the memory of how the crisis was mismanaged at the European level economically, but also socially and politically. The divergences between euro area countries in unemployment rates, current account balances and public debts are at levels unprecedented for decades. New steps in European governance must aim for greater economic efficiency in reducing unemployment and inequalities while explaining and justifying the financial and political importance of these measures in order to render them compatible with national policy choices. The establishment of a European unemployment insurance meets these criteria. Continue reading “European unemployment insurance”

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France – the sick man of Europe?

by Mathieu Plane – Economist at OFCE (French Economic Observatory – Sciences Po)

The year 2014 was marked for France by the risk of European Commission sanctions for the failure of its budget to comply with Treaties; by the downgrade by Fitch of French government debt (following the one by S&P a year earlier); by the absence of any sign of a in the unemployment rate; by a rising deficit after four years of consecutive decline; and by the distinction of being the only country in Europe to run a significant current account deficit: economically, it seemed like the country’s worst year since the beginning of the crisis, in  2008. France did not of course go through the kind of recession it did in 2009, when the Eurozone experienced a record fall in GDP (-4.5% and -2.9% for the EMU and for France respectively). But for the first time since the subprime bubble burst, in 2014 French GDP grew more slowly (0.4%) than eurozone average (0.8%). The country’s weakening position is fuelling the view that France may be the new sick man of Europe, a victim of its leaders’ lax fiscal approach and its inability to reform. Is this really the case? Continue reading “France – the sick man of Europe?”

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Austerity without end – or, how Italy found itself trapped by European rules

By Raul Sampognaro

If the budget submitted by France is out of step with the rules on fiscal governance in the euro area (see the recent posts on this subject by Henri Sterdyniak and Xavier Timbeau), Italy is also in the hot seat. The situations of France and Italy are, however, not directly comparable: the case of Italy could be far more restrictive than that of France, once again reflecting the perverse effects of Europe’s new governance. While, unlike France, Italy is no longer subject to an Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP), with its budget deficit at the 3% threshold since 2012, it is still covered by the Stability and Growth Pact’s preventive arm and thus enhanced surveillance with respect to the debt criterion. The country’s debt of 127% of GDP is well above the 60% level set by EU rules and, according to its medium-term budgetary objective (MTO), Italy must come close to balancing government spending. Continue reading “Austerity without end – or, how Italy found itself trapped by European rules”

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Manic-depressive austerity: let’s talk about it!

By Christophe Blot, Jérôme Creel, and Xavier Timbeau

Following discussions with our colleagues from the European Commission [1], we return to the causes of the prolonged period of recession experienced by the euro zone since 2009. We continue to believe that premature fiscal austerity has been a major political error and that an alternative policy would have been possible. The economists of the European Commission for their part continue to argue that there was no alternative to the strategy they advocated. It is worth examining these conflicting opinions. Continue reading “Manic-depressive austerity: let’s talk about it!”

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From austerity to stagnation

By Xavier Timbeau

Since 2010, the European Commission has published the Annual Growth Survey to stimulate discussion on the occasion of the European semester, during which the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Commission, and civil society discuss and develop the economic strategies of the various European countries. We considered it important to participate in this debate by publishing simultaneously with the Commission an independent Annual Growth Survey (iAGS), in collaboration with the IMK, a German institute, and the ECLM, a Danish institute. In the 2014 iAGS, for instance, we estimate the cost of the austerity measures enacted since 2011. This austerity policy, which was implemented while the fiscal multipliers were very high and on a scale unprecedented since the Second World War, was followed simultaneously by most euro zone countries. This resulted in lopping 3.2% off euro zone GDP for 2013. An alternative strategy, resulting after 20 years in the same GDP-to-debt ratios (i.e. 60% in most countries), would have been possible by not seeking to reduce public deficits in the short term when the multipliers are high. In order to lower the fiscal multipliers again, it’s necessary to reduce unemployment, build up agents’ balance sheets and get out of the liquidity trap. A more limited but ongoing adjustment strategy, just as fiscally rigorous but more suited to the economic situation, would have led to 2.3 additional points of GDP in 2013, which would have been much better than under the brutal austerity we find ourselves in today. This means there would not have been a recession in 2012 or 2013 for the euro zone as a whole (see the figure below: GDP in million euros). Continue reading “From austerity to stagnation”

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Is the euro area out of recession?

By Philippe Weil

At its meeting on October 9th, the Euro Area Business Cycle Dating Committee of the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) in London drew on the OFCE for this thorny issue (for the composition of this committee, which I chair, see here). The Committee’s mission is to establish a chronology of recessions and expansions in the euro area, similar to what the National Bureau of Economic Research has done for the United States, dating back to 1854.

This chronology is valuable in two ways. Continue reading “Is the euro area out of recession?”

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Competitiveness: danger zone!

By Céline Antonin, Christophe Blot, Sabine Le Bayon and Catherine Mathieu

The crisis affecting the euro zone is the result of macroeconomic and financial imbalances that developed during the 2000s. The European economies that have provoked doubt about the sustainability of their public finances (Spain, Portugal, Greece and Italy [1]) are those that ran up the highest current account deficits before the crisis and that saw sharp deteriorations in competitiveness between 2000 and 2007. Over that same period Germany gained competitiveness and built up growing surpluses, to such an extent that it has become a model to be emulated across the euro zone, and especially in the countries of southern Europe. Continue reading “Competitiveness: danger zone!”

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Why France is right to abandon the 3% public déficit target by 2013

By Mathieu Plane

Given the statements by the Minister of Economy and Finance, the government seems to have reached a decision to abandon the goal of a deficit of 3% of GDP by 2013. In addition to the change of tack in the policy announced up to now, which was to bring the deficit down to 3% by 2013 “whatever the cost”, we can legitimately conclude that France is right to abandon this goal, and we offer several arguments for this. Continue reading “Why France is right to abandon the 3% public déficit target by 2013”

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So far so good …

By Christophe Blot

The euro zone is still in recession. According to Eurostat, GDP fell again in the fourth quarter of 2012 (‑0.6%). This figure, which was below expectations, is the worst quarterly performance in the euro zone since the first quarter of 2009, and it is also the fifth consecutive quarter of a decline in activity. For 2012 as a whole, GDP decreased by 0.5%. This annual figure masks substantial heterogeneity in the zone (Figures 1 and 2), since Germany posted annual growth of 0.9% while for the second consecutive year Greece is likely to suffer a recession of more than 6%. Moreover, taking all the countries together, the growth rate will be lower in 2012 than in 2011, and some countries (Spain and Italy to name but two) will sink deeper into depression. This performance is all the more worrying as several months of renewed optimism had aroused hopes that the euro zone was recovering from the crisis. Were there grounds for such hope? Continue reading “So far so good …”

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Repeat

By Jérôme Creel

In a beautiful book for children, every two pages Claude Ponti drew two chicks, one of which says to the other: “Pete and Repeat are in a boat. Pete falls overboard. Who is left?” Then the other chick says, “Repeat”, and off we go again. At the end of the book, the second chick, its eyes bulging, screams: “Repeat!” And it never stops. It’s a bit like these analyses of economic growth and fiscal contractions where almost every month it is rediscovered that the ongoing fiscal contractions are reducing economic growth or that underestimating the real impact of fiscal policy is leading to forecast errors. Continue reading “Repeat”

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