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Saving Europe's Automatic Stabilizers

  • Barry Eichengreen.

European policymakers have repeatedly suggested that fiscal-policy coordination and fiscal federalism will play key roles in Europe's monetary union. This paper warns that this hope is misplaced. Fiscal federalism will not be available to offset recessionary shocks for the foreseeable future. The effects of coordination designed to internalise the cross-border spillovers of fiscal policies are too weak. Freeing up fiscal policy to replace national governments' loss of monetary independence requires allowing European countries' automatic stabilisers to operate. That in turn requires a flexible application of the Excessive Deficit Procedure and the Stability Pact. The solution suggested here is that the Excessive Deficit Procedure and any fines and sanctions associated with the Stability Pact be applied to the constant-employment budget balance, not the actual deficit. Applying them to actual deficits when European countries enter EMU up against the 3 per cent limit will render fiscal policy strongly procyclical, aggravating the problem of macroeconomic fragility created by the loss of monetary autonomy. Still, countries like Germany haunted by the spectre of fiscal pro fligacy need to be reassured that member states will not abuse their fiscal discretion. Procedural and institutional reform to offset the deficit bias in national political systems is the obvious quid pro quo.

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Paper provided by University of California at Berkeley in its series Center for International and Development Economics Research (CIDER) Working Papers with number C96-082.

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Date of creation: 01 Oct 1996
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Handle: RePEc:ucb:calbcd:c96-082
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  1. Melitz, Jacques & Vori, Silvia, 1992. "National Insurance Against Unevenly Distributed Shocks in a European Monetary Union," CEPR Discussion Papers 697, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Eichengreen, Barry, 1990. "Is Europe an Optimum Currency Area?," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt40m5g6pp, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  3. Buiter, W.H. & Corsetti, G. & Roubini, N., 1992. "Excessive Deficits: Sense and Nonsence in the Treaty of Maastricht," Papers 674, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
  4. repec:fth:inseep:9219 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Hammond, George & von Hagen, Jürgen, 1995. "Regional Insurance Against Asymmetric Shocks. An Empirical Study for the European Community," CEPR Discussion Papers 1170, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Tamim Bayoumi & Barry Eichengreen, 1995. "Restraining Yourself: The Implications of Fiscal Rules for Economic Stabilization," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 42(1), pages 32-48, March.
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