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Rules-based economic governance in the European Union: A reappraisal of national fiscal rules

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  • Benczes, Istvan

Abstract

The economic and financial crisis of 2007/2009 has posed unexpected challenges on both the global and the regional level. Besides the US, the EU has been the most severely hit by the current economic crisis. The financial and banking crisis on the one hand and the sovereign debt crisis on the other hand have clearly shown that without a bold, constructive and systematic change of the economic governance structure of the Union, not just the sustainability of the monetary zone but also the viability of the whole European integration process can be seriously undermined. The current crisis is, however, only a symptom, which made all those contradictions overt that were already heavily embedded in the system. Right from the very beginning, the deficit and the debt rules of the Maastricht Treaty and the Stability and Growth Pact have proved to be controversial cornerstones in the fiscal governance framework of the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Yet, member states of the EU (both within and outside of the EMU) have shown an immense interest in adopting numerical constraints on the domestic level without hesitation. The main argument for the introduction of national fiscal rules was mostly to strengthen the accountability and credibility of national fiscal policy-making. The paper, however, claims that a relatively large portion of national rules were adopted only after the start of deceleration of the debt-to-GDP ratios. Accordingly, national rules were hardly the sole triggering factors of maintaining fiscal discipline; rather, they served as the key elements of a comprehensive reform package of public budgeting. It can be safely argued, therefore, that countries decide to adopt fiscal rules because they want to explicitly signal their strong commitment to fiscal discipline. In other words, it is not fiscal rules per se what matter in delivering fiscal stability but a strong political commitment.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 34912.

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Date of creation: 05 Jul 2011
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:34912

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Keywords: fiscal governance; fiscal consolidation; fiscal rules; European Union;

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  1. Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2010. "Growth in a Time of Debt," CEPR Discussion Papers 7661, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Detken, Carsten & Gaspar, Vítor & Winkler, Bernhard, 2004. "On prosperity and posterity: the need for fiscal discipline in a monetary union," Working Paper Series 0420, European Central Bank.
  3. Tabellini, Guido & Alesina, Alberto, 1990. "A Positive Theory of Fiscal Deficits and Government Debt," Scholarly Articles 3612769, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Barro, Robert J., 1979. "On the Determination of the Public Debt," Scholarly Articles 3451400, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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