Policy brief

Propping up Europe?

This Policy Contribution is based on a briefing paper prepared for the European Parliament Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee’s Monetary Dialogue

Publishing date
23 April 2012

The Bank of England, the Federal Reserve (Fed) and the European Central Bank (ECB) have responded to the crisis with exceptional initiatives resulting in a major increase in their balance sheets. After the ECB’s end-2011 launch of three-year bank refinancing (LTRO), there has been speculation that all three have de facto embarked on ‘quantitative easing’.

However, major differences remain: the Bank of England and Fed have mostly relied on large-scale purchases of government bonds, while the ECB has relied on lending to financial institutions with repurchase agreements of collateral (repos).

The LTRO has successfully mitigated funding needs and reduced interbank stress, and has had a significant impact on sovereign bond yields in southern euro-area countries, and increased southern banks’ government debt holdings, while northern banks have reduced sovereign exposure.

The LTRO has had only weak effects on funding for households and non-financial corporations; credit dynamics remain weak particularly in the southern euro area.

Underlying structural problems relating to banks, the macroeconomic adjustment and the euro area’s governance need to be addressed before financial stability and economic growth can return. Monetary policy cannot fundamentally address these problems and is made less effective by economic/institutional heterogeneity.

This Policy Contribution is based on a briefing paper prepared for the European Parliament Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee’s Monetary Dialogue of 25 April 2012.

About the authors

  • Jean Pisani-Ferry

    Jean Pisani-Ferry holds the Tommaso Padoa Schioppa chair of the European University Institute. He is a Senior Fellow at Bruegel, the European think tank, and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute (Washington DC). He is also a professor of economics with Sciences Po (Paris).

    He sits on the supervisory board of the French Caisse des Dépôts and serves as non-executive chair of I4CE, the French institute for climate economics.

    Pisani-Ferry served from 2013 to 2016 as Commissioner-General of France Stratégie, the ideas lab of the French government. In 2017, he contributed to Emmanuel Macron’s presidential bid as the Director of programme and ideas of his campaign. He was from 2005 to 2013 the Founding Director of Bruegel, the Brussels-based economic think tank that he had contributed to create. Beforehand, he was Executive President of the French PM’s Council of Economic Analysis (2001-2002), Senior Economic Adviser to the French Minister of Finance (1997-2000), and Director of CEPII, the French institute for international economics (1992-1997).

    Pisani-Ferry has taught at University Paris-Dauphine, École Polytechnique, École Centrale and the Free University of Brussels. His publications include numerous books and articles on economic policy and European policy issues. He has also been an active contributor to public debates with regular columns in Le Monde and for Project Syndicate.

  • 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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