The euro-area crisis: what went wrong, what should be changed, what could be changed?
presented at: The Euro Area Crisis: What Went Wrong? What Should be Changed? What Could We Change? (04 Oct 2010)
1. Presenting the essential of the ex-ante EMU: the philosophy and architecture of the Maastricht Treaty was conceived with fundamental 'asymmetries' compensated by coordination dispositions and an expected integration dynamics supposedly driven by the fears from policymakers of facing risks and costs for living with this 'one-fits-for-all' dimension of the single currency.
2. The ex-post EMU: the positive results and advantages of the single currency made policymakers (Commission, Council and Member States) together with their citizens too complacent, turning it against its inner logics: the surveillance, peer-pressures, and Stability and Growth Pact were turned down by free-riding and moral hazard, failing to meet their function and making costly the one-fits-for-all monetary policy.
3. The present debates: was Maastricht wrong? No, in the sense that the Treaty was not applied, the asymmetry between single monetary policy and decentralized other economic policies could have worked perfectly if surveillance would have been effective and independent, yes in the sense that the architecture was wrong since surveillance was not shaped and organized as an effective check-&-balances mechanism, but was in the hands of an imbalance construction, a powerful 'judge-&-parts' Council facing a impotent-politically-dependent-Commission. Enforcement went wrong and must be changed, all parties do agree now but do not dare or want to change the Treaty.
4. What is feasible? An easy solution does nevertheless exist without changing the Treaty: just create an independent 'Euro Debt Agency' able to issue ? bonds (warranted by the euro Member States only when very strict SGP conditions are met) together with a compulsory subordination clause for any sovereign bonds, in order to create visible spreads between warranted EDA ?-bonds and national ?-bonds. Then, in specific cases, EDA could swap national ?-bonds for its own bonds for rewarding fiscal consolidation programmes under strict implementation conditions, while charging back the full market spread when national implementation would derail. So enforcement moves from an EU concern to a national one, and national ownership is ensured but could even be backed by national legislations and complementary fiscal rules.
Christian Ghymers, born in Liège, Belgium in 1948, has a Master's Degree from UCL (Louvain, Belgium) and the equivalent of a PhD in International Economics ('Agrégé de l'enseignement supérieur', UCL/ICHEC agreement, Belgium). His experience as an economist amounts to four decades, of which he spent two and a half in the European Commission's DG ECFIN, one in the Research Department of the National Bank of Belgium and the rest as university professor in several universities (Chile, France, and Belgium). He is still Professor with tenure in International Economics at ICHEC, Brussels (Business school). Throughout his career, he has dealt with economic policy issues and institution-building in Europe (close involvement with EMU since the launch of the ERM as well as with economic policy coordination), Latin America (trade reforms, macroeconomic stabilization and crisis, regional integration) and Africa (UEMOA and UEMAC regional integration with a view to improving economic governance). Following his position in ECFIN as Senior Adviser in charge of economic policy surveillance (from 1993 to 2003), he was in charge of communication and information for the DG ECFIN, and is now on secondment from the European Commission to the Joint Vienna Institute as Visiting Scholar.