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Addressing the safety trilemma: a safe sovereign asset for the eurozone

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  • van Riet, Ad

Abstract

At the 25th anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty, this paper reviews the merits of introducing a safe sovereign asset for the eurozone. The triple euro area crisis showed the costly consequences of ignoring the ‘safety trilemma’. Keeping a national safe sovereign asset (the German bund) as the cornerstone of the financial system is incompatible with having free capital mobility and maintaining economic and financial stability in a monetary union. The euro area needs a single safe sovereign asset. However, eurobonds are only foreseen after full fiscal integration. To address the safety trilemma member countries must therefore act as the joint sovereign behind the euro and choose from two options. First, they could establish a credible multipolar system of safe national sovereign assets. For this purpose, they could all issue both senior and junior tranches of each national government bond in a proportion such that the expected safety of the senior tranche is the same across countries while the junior tranche would absorb any sovereign default risk. Additional issuance of national GDP-linked bonds could insure governments against a deep recession that might lead to a self-fulfilling default and thereby help to make the junior tranche less risky. The second option is that the member countries together produce a common safe sovereign asset for a truly integrated and stable monetary union by creating synthetic eurobonds comprising both a safe senior claim and a risky junior claim on a diversified portfolio of national government bonds. This appears a more effective solution to the safety trilemma – especially when euro area governments would also issue national GDP-linked bonds – but it requires flanking measures to control for moral hazard. JEL Classification: F33, F34, G15, H63, H70

Suggested Citation

  • van Riet, Ad, 2017. "Addressing the safety trilemma: a safe sovereign asset for the eurozone," ESRB Working Paper Series 35, European Systemic Risk Board.
  • Handle: RePEc:srk:srkwps:201735
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    Cited by:

    1. Athanasios Orphanides, 2017. "The Fiscal-Monetary Policy Mix in the Euro Area: Challenges at the Zero Lower Bound," European Economy - Discussion Papers 2015 - 060, Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN), European Commission.
    2. van Riet, Ad, 2017. "Monetary Policy Stretched to the Limit: How Could Governments Support the European Central Bank?," MPRA Paper 83451, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. van Riet, Ad, 2016. "Government Funding Privileges in European Financial Law : Making Public Debt Everybody's Favourite?," Discussion Paper 2016-045, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    4. repec:kuk:journl:v:51:y:2018:i:1:p:93-111 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Zorell, Nico, 2017. "Large net foreign liabilities of euro area countries," Occasional Paper Series 198, European Central Bank.
    6. Andreas Breitenfellner & Helene Schuberth, 2017. "Potential und Risiken der Kapitalmarktunion für die Wirtschaft Europas und Österreichs," FIW Policy Brief series 035, FIW.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    capital mobility; safe sovereign asset; safety trilemma; synthetic eurobonds;

    JEL classification:

    • F33 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Monetary Arrangements and Institutions
    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • G15 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - International Financial Markets
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt
    • H70 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - General

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