Monday, November 28, 2011

Eurozone is on the way to fiscal union

by Jean Pisani-Ferry

Financial Times

November 28, 2011

Europe’s leaders may still harbour secret hopes that the European Central Bank will come to their rescue, but at least they seem to have understood that the surest way to make that happen is to deliver on what they have responsibility for, starting with budgets. Fiscal union is now officially on the European agenda.

For some, this is all about strengthening sanctions for budgetary slippages through more automatic decision procedures and granting the power to veto national budgets to a European body. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor has spoken along these lines recently and Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, is on a similar page. However, this plan alone is not likely to deliver much more than another layer of half-effective measures.

The principle underpinning budgetary surveillance is that each country is solely responsible for its own debt, but that it can be sanctioned ex post for misbehaviour. Alternatively, countries participating in the eurozone could have joint responsibility over at least part of their public debt, but they would also agree to give their partners the right to veto their budgets before they are implemented. To be clear, this would imply that eurozone members agree to provide a guarantee to the holders of, say, Italian debt and have the right to prevent the issuance of Italian debt.


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