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Fiscal policy in EMU: Rules, discretion and political incentives


  • Marco Buti
  • Paul van den Noord


The fiscal philosophy of EMU's budgetary rules is to bring deficits close to balance and then let automatic stabilisers play freely. Given the large tax and benefit systems in Europe, relying mainly on automatic stabilisation would allow a relatively high degree of cyclical smoothing while avoiding the typical pitfalls of fiscal activism. While this is, in most circumstances, good economic policy, it is evidently not regarded as good politics. The current difficulties of EMU's fiscal policy framework have little to do with its alleged fault lines and much to do with the resurgence of electoral budget cycles amid a weak system of incentives to abide by the agreed rules.

Suggested Citation

  • Marco Buti & Paul van den Noord, 2004. "Fiscal policy in EMU: Rules, discretion and political incentives," European Economy - Economic Papers 2008 - 2015 206, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
  • Handle: RePEc:euf:ecopap:0206

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Juergen von Hagen, 2010. "The Sustainability of Public Finanaces and Fiscal Policy Coordination in the EMU," CASE Network Studies and Analyses 412, CASE-Center for Social and Economic Research.
    2. Tilman Brück & Andreas Stephan, 2006. "Do Eurozone Countries Cheat with their Budget Deficit Forecasts?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(1), pages 3-15, February.
    3. Andres, Javier & Domenech, Rafael & Fatas, Antonio, 2008. "The stabilizing role of government size," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 571-593, February.
    4. Alberto Alesina & Dorian Carloni & Giampaolo Lecce, 2012. "The Electoral Consequences of Large Fiscal Adjustments," NBER Chapters,in: Fiscal Policy after the Financial Crisis, pages 531-570 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Bénétrix, Agustín S. & Lane, Philip R., 2013. "Fiscal cyclicality and EMU," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 164-176.
    6. Herzog, Bodo, 2005. "Why do bigger countries have more problems with the Stability and Growth Pact?," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 40, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    7. Merola, Rossana & Pérez, Javier J., 2013. "Fiscal forecast errors: Governments versus independent agencies?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 285-299.
    8. Dolls, Mathias & Fuest, Clemens & Peichl, Andreas, 2012. "Automatic stabilizers and economic crisis: US vs. Europe," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(3), pages 279-294.
    9. Theodoros S. Papaspyrou, 2007. "Economic Policy in EMU: Community Framework and National Strategies – focus on Greece," GreeSE – Hellenic Observatory Papers on Greece and Southeast Europe 04, Hellenic Observatory, LSE.
    10. Georgios Chortareas & Christos Mavrodimitrakis, 2011. "Fiscal Policies and Monetary Leadership in a Monetary Union with a Deficit-Concerned Central Bank," Central European Journal of Economic Modelling and Econometrics, CEJEME, vol. 3(1), pages 1-24, March.
    11. Forni, Lorenzo & Momigliano, Sandro, 2004. "Cyclical sensitivity of fiscal policies based on real-time data," MPRA Paper 4315, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Orban, Gabor & Szapary, Gyorgy, 2004. "The Stability and Growth Pact from the perspective of the new member states," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 26(7), pages 839-864, October.
    13. David Prušvic, 2010. "Evropská fiskální pravidla a jejich účinnost: prvních 15 let
      [European Fiscal Policy Rules: First 15 Years]
      ," Politická ekonomie, University of Economics, Prague, vol. 2010(1), pages 51-69.
    14. Jernej Mencinger Aleksander Aristovnik, 2014. "Fiscal Policy Stance Reaction to the Financial/Economic Crisis in the EMU: The Case of Slovenia," Zagreb International Review of Economics and Business, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb, vol. 17(Special C), pages 17-30, December.
    15. F. Holm-Hadulla & S. Hauptmeier & P. Rother, 2012. "The impact of expenditure rules on budgetary discipline over the cycle," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(25), pages 3287-3296, September.
    16. Andersen, Torben M., 2008. "The macroeconomic policy mix in a monetary union with flexible inflation targeting," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 411-437, April.
    17. Anthony M Annett, 2006. "Enforcement and the Stability and Growth Pact; How Fiscal Policy Did and Did Not Change Under Europe’s Fiscal Framework," IMF Working Papers 06/116, International Monetary Fund.
    18. Marco Buti & Paul Noord, 2004. "Fiscal Discretion and Elections in the Early Years of EMU," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 42(4), pages 737-756, November.
    19. repec:taf:regstd:v:50:y:2016:i:11:p:1849-1862 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Chortareas, Georgios & Mavrodimitrakis, Christos, 2017. "Strategic fiscal policies and leadership in a monetary union," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 133-147.
    21. Rossana Merola & Javier J. Pérez, 2012. "Fiscal forecast errors: governments vs independent agencies?," Working Papers 1233, Banco de España;Working Papers Homepage.
    22. Dolls, Mathias & Fuest, Clemens & Kock, Jan & Peichl, Andreas & Wehrhöfer, Nils & Wittneben, Christian, 2014. "Abschlussbericht zu Forschungsvorhaben fe 5/14: "Automatic stabilizers in the Eurozone: Analysis of their effectiveness at the member state and euro area level and in international comparison&quo," ZEW Expertises, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research, number 111444.
    23. Renate Ohr & André Schmidt, 2006. "Handelbare Verschuldungsrechte zur Sicherung fiskalischer Stabilität in der Währungsunion?," Departmental Discussion Papers 128, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
    24. Breuss, Fritz & Roeger, Werner, 2005. "The SGP fiscal rule in the case of sluggish growth: Simulations with the QUEST model," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 27(7), pages 767-788, October.
    25. Markus Eller & Jarko Fidrmuc & Zuzana Fungáčová, 2016. "Fiscal Policy and Regional Output Volatility: Evidence from Russia," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 50(11), pages 1849-1862, November.


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