Policy brief

Euro-area governance: what to reform and how to do it

This Policy Brief argues that the Euro-area governance needs to move beyond the improvements brought about by banking union and should establish

Publishing date
27 February 2015
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  • The Issue Reform of the governance of the euro area is being held back by disagreement on what is at the root of the euro area’s woes. Pre-crisis, the euro area suffered from the built-up of financial imbalances, price and wage divergence and an insufficient focus on debt sustainability. During the crisis, the main problems were slow resolution of banking problems, an inadequate fiscal policy stance in 2011-13 for the area as a whole, insufficient domestic demand in surplus countries and slow progress with structural reforms to overcome past divergences.
  • Policy Challenge Euro-area governance needs to move beyond the improvements brought about by banking union and should establish institutions to prevent divergences of wages from productivity. We propose the creation of a European Competitiveness Council composed of national competitiveness councils, and the creation of a Eurosystem of Fiscal Policy (EFP) with two goals: fiscal debt sustainability and an adequate area-wide fiscal position. The EFP should have the right in exceptional circumstances to declare national deficits unlawful and to be able to force parliaments to borrow more so that the euro-area fiscal stance is appropriate. A euro-area chamber of the European Parliament would have to approve such decisions. No additional risk-sharing would be introduced. In the short term, domestic demand needs to be increased in surplus countries, while in deficit countries, structural reform needs to reduce past divergences.

About the authors

  • André Sapir

    André Sapir, a Belgian citizen, is Senior Fellow at Bruegel. He is also University Professor at the Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and Research Fellow of the London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research.

    Between 1990 and 2004, he worked for the European Commission, first as Economic Advisor to the Director-General for Economic and Financial Affairs, and then as Principal Economic Advisor to President Prodi, also heading his Economic Advisory Group. In 2004, he published 'An Agenda for a Growing Europe', a report to the president of the Commission by a group of independent experts that is known as the Sapir report. After leaving the Commission, he first served as External Member of President Barroso’s Economic Advisory Group and then as Member of the General Board (and Chair of the Advisory Scientific Committee) of the European Systemic Risk Board based at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.

    André has written extensively on European integration, international trade, and globalisation. He holds a PhD in economics from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he worked under the supervision of Béla Balassa. He was elected Member of the Academia Europaea and of the Royal Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts.

  • Guntram B. Wolff

    Guntram Wolff is the Director of Bruegel. Over his career, he has contributed to research on European political economy and governance, fiscal, monetary and financial policy, climate change and geoeconomics. Under his leadership, Bruegel has been regularly ranked among the top global think tanks and has grown in influence and impact with a team of now almost 40 recognized scholars and around 65 total staff. Bruegel is also recognized for its outstanding transparency.

    A recognized thought leader and academic, he regularly testifies at the European Finance Ministers' ECOFIN meeting, the European Parliament, the German Parliament (Bundestag) and the French Parliament (Assemblée Nationale). 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 to the G20 high level independent panel on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. He is also a professor (part-time) at the Solvay Brussels School of Université Libre de Bruxelles, where he teaches economics of European integration.

    He 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 was coordinating the research team on fiscal policy at Deutsche Bundesbank. He also worked as an external adviser to the International Monetary Fund.

    He holds a PhD in economics from the University of Bonn and studied in Bonn, Toulouse, Pittsburgh and Passau. He taught economics at the University of Pittsburgh and at Université libre de Bruxelles. He has published numerous papers in leading academic journals. His columns and policy work are published and cited in leading international media and policy outlets. Guntram is fluent in German, English, French and has good notions of Bulgarian and Spanish.

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