The European Council meeting, next Monday, should finally lift the veil of mystery that has surrounded the new “fiscal compact”, the set of rules supposed to govern fiscal policy in EU member countries. As of now, the only official document in our hands is the Statement approved by the Heads of State and Government at the December 9 meeting.
I have argued at length that I am not in the camp of those who believe fiscal profligacy is the source of EMU problems (recently, here and here). Rather the contrary, I always thought (see for example here and here) that even the current rules de facto prevented EMU countries from effectively using the standard tools of macroeconomic policy.
A couple of years ago (February 2010), I thought I was being really heterodox, when I argued that Greece should be given 7-8 year to consolidate its public finances, because any sharp consolidation plan would push it into recession. The interview was in French, but more or less I said that
Standard and Poor’s decision to downgrade a large number of EU countries, on Friday, was widely expected; and, as I write, markets barely reacted. This is not surprising, as the downgrade had already been embedded in market behaviours.
There are of course notable political consequences, for example in what concerns the French presidential race. But from an economist perspective, this is really not a turning point.
There is nevertheless a remarkable news, that went almost unnoticed. Read more…
An excellent post by Paul Krugman on Germany’s flawed view of the Eurozone. He points to the obvious: unless we trade with Mars, it is plain impossible that all countries base their growth on exports. If the Germans want to sell their Mercedes to Italians, they need to be willing to buy our pasta (I feel so original…).
Germany’s success rests on other countries’ excess consumption, and on converging interest rates, that for a decade led to capital flows into the EMU periphery to finance consumption of German goods. In a sentence, and simplifying: without Greece, Germany would not be in place to lecture other countries today.
The least Germany could do is to give back something through an expansion of domestic demand that could make the adjustment in the periphery less painful. I had myself made this point a while ago. I also remember an old editorial by Martin Wolf that ended saying something like “If Germany wants the rest of Europe to be more German, it needs to be less German itself”. I Could not agree more…
Instead, German leaders and economists spend their time perpetuating the false narrative of expansionary fiscal contractions, so well debunked by Krugman and De Long among others. The obvious does not seem so obvious to them…
I come back to my first post. Solidarity and symmetry seem bad words in today’s Europe, but to me are the keys to the exit from the EMU crisis (and if you read Jean Monnet, the founding fathers had the same ideas…)