Policy brief

Beyond the Juncker and Schäuble visions of euro-area governance

Two diametrically opposed visions of the euro-area architecture have been put forward. Departing from both Juncker’s and Schäuble’s proposals, the aut

Publishing date
01 December 2017

The issue

Two diametrically opposed visions of the euro-area architecture have been put forward. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker favours a model that puts the Commission at the centre of fiscal policy decision-making. The former German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble argues that fiscal surveillance should be centred on a reformed European Stability Mechanism. Juncker’s proposal would over-emphasise the Commission when fiscal policy making is national and would unduly mix the roles of Commission and Council. Schäuble, by contrast, neglects the fact that national fiscal policy matters for the euro area not only for sustainability reasons but also because of the provisioning of public goods, stabilisation policy and effects on inflation and growth. This Policy Brief does not discuss the completion of banking union, which is essential for a stable euro area.

Policy challenge

Fiscal policy making in the euro area will remain a difficult balancing act between national politics and European interests. Departing from both Juncker’s and Schäuble’s proposals, the Eurogroup should be developed into a Eurosystem of fiscal policy (EFP) as the centre of euro-area fiscal governance. The Eurogroup should have a permanent, full-time president, with a mandate to represent the interests of the whole euro area, and who will report regularly to the European Parliament. The Commission would make fiscal policy recommendations to member states; fiscal rules would be reformed. Political, and in some cases market, pressure would increase on countries that fail to comply with recommendations. Ultimate responsibility for debt will remain national. The European Stability Mechanism should become a permanent fire brigade to manage sovereign debt crises, including possible restructurings in extreme cases. Finally, the EU budget should be reformed to focus on European public goods and on a stabilisation function.

About the authors

  • Guntram B. Wolff

    Guntram Wolff is a Senior fellow at Bruegel. He is also a Professor of Public Policy and Economics at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. From 2022-2024, he was the Director and CEO of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) and from 2013-22 the director of Bruegel. Over his career, he has contributed to research on European political economy, climate policy, geoeconomics, macroeconomics and foreign affairs. His work was published in academic journals such as Nature, Science, Research Policy, Energy Policy, Climate Policy, Journal of European Public Policy, Journal of Banking and Finance. His co-authored book “The macroeconomics of decarbonization” is published in Cambridge University Press.

    An experienced public adviser, he has been testifying twice a year since 2013 to the informal European finance ministers’ and central bank governors’ ECOFIN Council meeting on a large variety of topics. He also regularly testifies to the European Parliament, the Bundestag and speaks to corporate boards. In 2020, Business Insider ranked him one of the 28 most influential “power players” in Europe. From 2012-16, he was a member of the French prime minister’s Conseil d’Analyse Economique. In 2018, then IMF managing director Christine Lagarde appointed him to the external advisory group on surveillance to review the Fund’s priorities. In 2021, he was appointed member and co-director to the G20 High level independent panel on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response under the co-chairs Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Lawrence H. Summers and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. From 2013-22, he was an advisor to the Mastercard Centre for Inclusive Growth. He is a member of the Bulgarian Council of Economic Analysis, the European Council on Foreign Affairs and  advisory board of Elcano.

    Guntram joined Bruegel from the European Commission, where he worked on the macroeconomics of the euro area and the reform of euro area governance. Prior to joining the Commission, he worked in the research department at the Bundesbank, which he joined after completing his PhD in economics at the University of Bonn. He also worked as an external adviser to the International Monetary Fund. He is fluent in German, English, and French. His work is regularly published and cited in leading media. 

Related content