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Real and Imagined Constraints on Euro Area Monetary Policy

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  • Patrick Honohan

    () (Peterson Institute for International Economics)

Abstract

Although the European Central Bank (ECB) has been pursuing an aggressively expansionary policy since 2012, previously the ECB was behind the curve in lowering interest rates and making asset purchases to combat the prolonged euro area recession. This paper argues that part of the delay can be attributed to the multi-country nature of the euro area. Over-interpreting the limitations of the ECB’s statutory mandate, some ECB decision makers were wary of being accused of circumventing the prohibition on monetary financing by intervening in the market of the debt of weaker governments. Some were also mesmerized by the relatively strong performance of the German economy in the crisis and attributed the slower post-crisis recovery of most other member states to national policy failures that should not be offset by euro area monetary policy. All of this was exacerbated by the ECB’s adoption of and (at least until 2011) adherence to a seductive but analytically flawed “separation principle,” which misled some of its decision makers into overestimating the adequacy of the monetary expansion that was being applied. The ECB’s toolbox is indeed somewhat limited by its statute, reflecting multi-country considerations, but abandonment of the separation principle should help ensure a more effective, holistic approach to monetary policy design in the future.

Suggested Citation

  • Patrick Honohan, 2018. "Real and Imagined Constraints on Euro Area Monetary Policy," Working Paper Series WP18-8, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:iie:wpaper:wp18-8
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    Cited by:

    1. Stefano Neri & Stefano Siviero, 2018. "The Non-Standard Monetary Policy Measures of the ECB: Motivations, Effectiveness and Risks," Credit and Capital Markets, Credit and Capital Markets, vol. 51(4), pages 513-560.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    European Central Bank; monetary policy; financial crises; European Union; political economy;

    JEL classification:

    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies
    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises

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