The European economy in 2017 – or, the post-Brexit EU

By Jérôme Creel

The just released L’économie européenne 2017 provides a broad overview of the issues being posed today by the European Union project. Brexit, migration, imbalances, inequality, economic rules that are at once rigid and flexible… the EU remains an enigma. Today it gives the impression of having lost the thread of its own history or to even to be going against History, such as the recent international financial crisis or in earlier times the Great Depression. Continue reading “The European economy in 2017 – or, the post-Brexit EU”

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Balance sheets effects of a euro break-up

By Cédric Durand (Université Paris 13), and Sébastien Villemot

When it was introduced at the turn of the millennium, the euro was widely perceived as a major achievement for Europe. The apparent economic successes, coupled with cross-country convergence of several economic indicators, fueled this sentiment of success. A couple of years later, the picture looks dramatically different. The world financial crisis has revealed imbalances that have led to the sovereign debt crisis and brought the euro area on the verge of dislocation. The austerity policies that became the norm on the continent in 2011 fueled a protracted stagnation[1], with growth rates that look bleak in comparison to the United States and the United Kingdom.

This economic underperformance has fueled popular resentment against the euro, now seen by a growing number of European people as the problem rather than the solution. The financial community itself seems to be prepared to the possibility of an exit or a dissolution of the single currency by cutting back on cross-border positions. Greece was on the verge to leave in 2015. And the intellectual mood is also shifting: leading thinkers, such as US economist Joseph Stiglitz, or German Sociologist Wolfgang Streeck are among the most visible figures of a wider change of attitude. Continue reading “Balance sheets effects of a euro break-up”

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Matteo Renzi’s Jobs Act: A very guarded optimism

By Céline Antonin

At a time when the subject of labour market reform has aroused passionate debate in France, Italy is drawing some initial lessons from the reform it introduced a year ago. It should be noted that the labour market reform, dubbed the Jobs Act, had been one of Matteo Renzi’s campaign promises. The Italian labour market has indeed been suffering from chronic weaknesses, including segmentation, a duality between employees with and without social protection, high youth unemployment, and a mismatch between costs and labour productivity. Renzi’s reform takes a social-liberal approach, advocating flexicurity, with the introduction of a new permanent employment contract with graduated protection, lower social charges on companies, and better compensation and support for the unemployed. Although the initial assessment is surely positive in terms of both unemployment and job creation, there’s no cause for hasty triumphalism: the reform has been implemented in especially favourable circumstances, marked by a return of growth, an accommodative policy mix, and a stagnating work force. Continue reading “Matteo Renzi’s Jobs Act: A very guarded optimism”

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A new EU arrangement for the United Kingdom: European lessons from the February 19th agreement

By Catherine Mathieu  and Henri Sterdyniak

Following the demand made by David Cameron on 10 November 2015 for a new arrangement for the United Kingdom in the European Union, the European Council came to an agreement at its meeting of 18 and 19 February. On the basis of this text, the British people will be called to the polls on 23 June to decide whether to stay in the EU. This episode raises a number of questions about the functioning of the EU. Continue reading “A new EU arrangement for the United Kingdom: European lessons from the February 19th agreement”

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Why can’t Greece get out of debt?

By Sébastien Villemot

Between 2007 and 2015, Greece’s public debt rose from 103% to 179% [1] of its GDP (see chart below). The debt-to-GDP ratio rose at an uninterrupted pace, except for a 12-point fall in 2012 following the restructuring imposed on private creditors, and despite the implementation of two macroeconomic adjustment programs (and the beginning of a third) that were aimed precisely at redressing the Greek government’s accounts. Austerity has plunged the country into a recessionary and deflationary spiral, making it difficult if not impossible to reduce the debt. The question of a further restructuring is now sharply posed. Continue reading “Why can’t Greece get out of debt?”

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Is missing disinflation a uniquely American phenomenon?

By Paul Hubert, Mathilde Le Moigne

Are the dynamics of inflation after the 2007-2009 crisis atypical? According to Paul Krugman, “If inflation had responded to the Great Recession and aftermath the way it did in previous big slumps, we would be deep in deflation by now; we aren’t.” In fact, after 2009, inflation in the US has remained surprisingly stable in terms of changes in real activity. This phenomenon has been called “missing disinflation”. Can a phenomenon like this be seen in the euro zone? Continue reading “Is missing disinflation a uniquely American phenomenon?”

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An ever so fragile recovery

By the Department of Analysis and Forecasting, under the direction of Eric Heyer and  Xavier Timbeau

This text summarizes the OFCE’s economic forecast for 2015-2017 for the euro zone and the rest of the world.

The figures for euro zone growth in the first half of 2015 have confirmed the upswing glimpsed at the end of 2014. While the zone’s return to growth might once have been taken to indicate the end of the global economic and financial crisis that struck in 2008, the turbulence hitting the emerging countries, particularly over the summer in China, is a reminder that the crisis ultimately seems to be continuing. China’s economic weight and its role in world trade are now so substantial that, even in the case of a soft landing, the impact on growth in the developed countries would be significant. We nevertheless anticipate that the scenario for a recovery need not be called into question, and that euro zone growth will be broadly supported by favourable factors (lower oil prices and ECB monetary support) and by some weakening of unfavourable factors (easing of fiscal policies). But the fact remains that the situation in the developing world will add new uncertainty to an already fragile recovery. Continue reading “An ever so fragile recovery”

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Greece: When history repeats itself

By Jacques Le Cacheux

The duration of the Greek crisis and the harshness of the series of austerity plans that have been imposed on it to straighten out its public finances and put it in a position to meet its obligations to its creditors have upset European public opinion and attracted great comment. The hard-fought agreement reached on Monday 13 July at the summit of the euro zone heads of state and government, along with the demands made prior to the Greek referendum on 5 July, which were rejected by a majority of voters, contain conditions that are so unusual and so contrary to State sovereignty as we are used to conceiving of it that they shocked many of Europe’s citizens and strengthened the arguments of eurosceptics, who see all this as proof that European governance is being exercised contrary to democracy.

Continue reading “Greece: When history repeats itself”

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Is Greece in the process of divorce?

By Jérôme Creel

The ongoing Greek saga is looking more and more like an old American TV series. JR Ewing returns to the family table feeling upset with Sue Ellen for her failure to keep her promise to stop drinking. Given the way things are going, a divorce seems inevitable, especially if Bobby sides with his brother and refuses to help his sister-in-law any longer.

Just like in Dallas, addiction to a potentially toxic substance, public debt, is plaguing Europe’s states and institutions. Analyses on Greece focus mainly on debt-to-GDP ratios. On these terms, Greece’s public debt-to-GDP ratio rose from 2011 to 2014: European public opinion can therefore legitimately question the ability of the Greek people (really the Greek state) to curb spending and raise taxes. A divorce is inevitable. But if we look at the amounts involved, the situation seems somewhat different. Continue reading “Is Greece in the process of divorce?”

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Greece: an agreement, again and again

By Céline Antonin, Raul Sampognaro, Xavier TimbeauSébastien Villemot

… La même nuit que la nuit d’avant                  […The same night as the night before
Les mêmes endroits deux fois trop grands          The same places, twice too big
T’avances comme dans des couloirs                     
You walk through the corridors
Tu t’arranges pour éviter les miroirs                     
You try to avoid the mirrors
Mais ça continue encore et encore …                    
But it just goes on and on…]

Francis Cabrel, Encore et encore, 1985.

Just hours before an exceptional EU summit on Greece, an agreement could be signed that would lead to a deal on the second bail-out package for Greece, releasing the final tranche of 7.2 billion euros. Greece could then meet its deadlines in late June with the IMF (1.6 billion euros) as well as those in July and August with the ECB (6.6 billion euros) and again with the IMF (0.45 billion euros). At the end of August, Greece’s debt to the IMF could rise by almost 1.5 billion euros, as the IMF is contributing 3.5 billion euros to the 7.2 billion euro tranche.

Greece has to repay a total of 8.6 billion euros by September, and nearly 12 billion by the end of the year, which means funding needs that exceed the 7.2 billion euros covered by the negotiations with the Brussels Group (i.e. the ex-Troika). To deal with this, the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) could be used, to the tune of about 10 billion euros, but it will no longer be available for recapitalizing the banks. Continue reading “Greece: an agreement, again and again”

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