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The Euro Area Crisis: Politics over Economics


  • Athanasios Orphanides



This paper explores the dominant role of politics in decisions made by euro area governments during the crisis. Decisions that appear to have been driven by local political considerations to the detriment of the euro area as a whole are discussed. The domination of politics over economics has led to crisis mismanagement. The underlying cause of tension is identified as a misalignment of political incentives. Member state governments tend to defend their own interests in a noncooperative manner. This has magnified the costs of the crisis and has resulted in an unbalanced and divisive incidence of the costs across the euro area. The example of Cyprus is discussed, where political decisions resulted in a transfer of about half of 2013 GDP from the island to cover losses elsewhere. In the absence of a federal government, no institution can adequately defend the interests of the euro area as a whole. European institutions appear weak and incapable of defending European principles and the proper functioning of the euro. Political reform is needed to sustain the euro but this is unlikely to pass the political feasibility test with the current governments of Europe. Copyright International Atlantic Economic Society 2014

Suggested Citation

  • Athanasios Orphanides, 2014. "The Euro Area Crisis: Politics over Economics," Atlantic Economic Journal, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 42(3), pages 243-263, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:atlecj:v:42:y:2014:i:3:p:243-263
    DOI: 10.1007/s11293-014-9419-1

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Enrico Spolaore, 2013. "What Is European Integration Really About? A Political Guide for Economists," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 125-144, Summer.
    2. Jesús Fernández-Villaverde & Luis Garicano & Tano Santos, 2013. "Political Credit Cycles: The Case of the Eurozone," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 145-166, Summer.
    3. Sargent, Thomas J., 2011. "United States Then, Europe Now," Nobel Prize in Economics documents 2011-6, Nobel Prize Committee.
    4. Jens Boysen-Hogrefe, 2012. "Die Zinslast des Bundes in der Schuldenkrise: Wie lukrativ ist der „sichere Hafen“?," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 13, pages 81-91, May.
    5. Michaelides, Alexander, 2014. "What Happened in Cyprus?," CEPR Discussion Papers 9993, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Stephanie Schmitt-Grohé & Martin Uribe, 2013. "Downward Nominal Wage Rigidity and the Case for Temporary Inflation in the Eurozone," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 193-212, Summer.
    7. Peter Temin & David Vines, 2013. "The Leaderless Economy: Why the World Economic System Fell Apart and How to Fix It," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9932.
    8. Zenios, Stavros A., 2014. "Fairness and Reflexivity in the Cyprus Bail-In," Working Papers 14-04, University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, Weiss Center.
    9. Kevin H. O'Rourke & Alan M. Taylor, 2013. "Cross of Euros," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 167-192, Summer.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stergios Skaperdas, 2015. "Myths and Self-Deceptions about the Greek Debt Crisis," Revue d'économie politique, Dalloz, vol. 125(6), pages 755-785.
    2. Orphanides, Athanasios, 2014. "Are rules and boundaries sufficient to limit harmful central bank discretion? Lessons from Europe," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 121-125.
    3. repec:pal:palcom:v:3:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1057_s41599-017-0032-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Kleczka, Mitja, 2015. "Monetary Policy, Fiscal Policy, and Secular Stagnation at the Zero Lower Bound. A View on the Eurozone," MPRA Paper 67228, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. repec:liu:liucej:v:14:y:2017:i:1:p:13-36 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Ad van Riet, 2017. "Addressing the safety trilemma: a safe sovereign asset for the eurozone," ESRB Working Paper Series 35, European Systemic Risk Board.

    More about this item


    Currency union; Euro; European integration; Sovereign debt; Deauville; Cyprus; D72; E32; E65; F34; H12; H63;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E65 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Studies of Particular Policy Episodes
    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises
    • H12 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Crisis Management
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt


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