Policy brief

The time is right for a European Monetary Fund

Two of the banking union’s pillars – common European supervision by the European Central Bank and common European resolution by the Single Resolution

Publishing date
30 October 2017

The issue

The creation of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and the banking union were instrumental in stemming the euro-area sovereign crisis. However, both remain incomplete. While the ESM reduces the risk of sovereign debt crises, it still lacks an instrument to deal in an orderly way with insolvency crises. This makes the no-bailout clause of the Maastricht Treaty toothless. Two of the banking union’s pillars – common European supervision by the European Central Bank and common European resolution by the Single Resolution Fund – are up and running. But the third, common European deposit insurance, is still missing. Furthermore, the governance of the ESM is wanting. Decisions to provide financial assistance are taken by unanimity, preventing swift crisis response when it is needed.

Policy challenge

The re-election of Chancellor Merkel and the election of President Macron create a new momentum for strengthening the euro area’s crisis framework. There is agreement to turn the ESM into a European Monetary Fund (EMF). We propose to design this EMF as part of a broader risk-sharing and market-discipline agenda. Risk sharing would come from the increased capacity of the EMF to intervene early in a sovereign or banking crisis and to act as a fiscal backstop to a complete banking union that includes European deposit insurance. Market discipline of sovereigns would come from the reduced exposure of banks to their home sovereigns and from a newly-established debt restructuring mechanism. The proposed transformation of the ESM into an EMF should be viewed as part of a wider institutional reform of the fiscal dimension of the euro area.

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.

  • Dirk Schoenmaker

    Dirk Schoenmaker is a Non-Resident Fellow at Bruegel. He is also a Professor of Banking and Finance at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam and a Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Research (CEPR). He has published in the areas of sustainable finance, central banking, financial supervision and stability and European financial integration.

    Dirk is author of ‘Governance of International Banking: The Financial Trilemma’ (Oxford University Press) and co-author of the textbooks ‘Financial Markets and Institutions: A European perspective’ (Cambridge University Press) and ‘Principles of Sustainable Finance’ (Oxford University Press). He earned his PhD in economics at the London School of Economics.

    Before joining RSM, Dirk was Dean of the Duisenberg school of finance from 2009 to 2015. From 1998 to 2008, he served at the Netherlands Ministry of Finance. In the 1990s, he served at the Bank of England. He is a regular consultant for the IMF, the OECD and the European Commission.

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