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April 10, 2017

Nein, nein, nein, und nein

People always say that Wolfgang Schäuble is a European integrationist because of a paper he wrote in the 1990s - the Schäuble/Lamers paper. If you dissect his comments from Malta about the future of the eurozone, there is really not a glimmer of European spirit, if there ever was any. 

FAZ offers a useful and long list of all the proposals Schäuble is rejecting. He says any institutional changes would require treaty change, and this won’t fly politically. The treaty change argument is indeed the German government's legal interpretation, but it is not universally accepted, not even among German constitutional lawyers.

Schäuble rejects Valdis Dombrovskis’ idea of a common eurozone budget, either for investments or for unemployment insurance. The Commission has already given up on unemployment insurance given Germany’s opposition. We think this is a shame, since it makes a lot more sense to harmonise unemployment insurance than to create yet another ineffective fund for investments. The whole idea is to have a cyclical shock absorber.

The reason Schäuble is opposed is the shift in competences from the ministers to the Commission and the European Parliament. This is why he is proposing a European Monetary Fund - a kind of strengthened ESM - because the ESM is an inter-governmental institution. Schäuble said any eurozone governance reforms had to be inter-governmental. He also backed the idea of a sovereign insolvency mechanism.

Schäuble rejects the idea of a permanent eurogroup chief after the departure of Jeroen Dijsselbloem. The paper writes that Schäuble wants an existing finance minister to occupy this office, which means that there will be no space for Dijsselbloem after the formation of the Dutch government. The Germans expect this to happen after the German federal elections in September.

Schäuble also rejects the idea of European Safe Bonds - the idea to bundle existing sovereing bonds into eurobonds - a proposal that will not be seriously discussed by ministers, according to Schäuble. The German government sees the danger of debt mutualisation through the back door. The problem of bank holdings of national sovereign debt has to be solved differently.

Schäuble also rejects the idea of a eurozone bad bank, as proposed by Andrea Enria. This was not a sensible proposal, he said. It would be better to create a secondary market for bad debt.

As we have been writing for several years now, there is no way the eurozone will achieve deeper integration without extreme pressure. The only thing we believe could persuade Germany to accept institutional reform is a credible threat by a large member state to exit. We see no fundamental difference between a CDU-led or and SPD-led government. On the contrary, if Schulz were to become chancellor, Schäuble would most likely remain finance minister and dictate the next German government’s financial policy. If Merkel wins, and the SPD came second, it is possible that the SPD would grab the finance ministry, but none of the heavy hitters, like Martin Schulz or Sigmar Gabriel, are interested in the job. And the SPD has other political priorities. The bottom line is that eurozone governance reform requires either a crisis, or blackmail, or both.

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April 10, 2017

Sounds like a bad Brexit story, but ain’t

By the standards of European negotiations, the upcoming Brexit talks fall into the easy-to-moderate category. The Article 50 deal is largely technical. There will be a two-year or so transition after Brexit, now accepted officially by Theresa May, during which the UK will effectively abide by EU laws and regulations. There are a lot of threats and counter-threats, but as this story in the FT suggests, the playing field is a lot more balanced than some people had feared - or hoped for. And the more balanced the playing field, the greater the chances of a deal. 

The story quotes Michel Barnier as expressing concern that Brexit throws up confidentiality issues, which will need to be discussed within the Article 50 discussion. The EU questions the wisdom of involving the UK in bilateral trade talks that will not come into effect before Brexit, sharing information the UK could use to its advantage in its own bilateral trade talks with both the EU and Australia. The EU has a legitimate point here, but there is no legal basis for excluding the UK from trade talks. That would be a breach of the treaty. The UK government says it is a full member of the EU for the next two years, which means that it retains the full rights of a member state, including, of course, veto rights. We could imagine, however, that the UK may voluntarily accept the EU’s request to recuse itself in exchange, for example, for a speedier discussion on EU/UK trade talks. Both sides would benefit from such an agreement.

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April 10, 2017

On how not to exit the euro

Wolfgang Munchau makes the point in his FT column that the various euro-exit threats by populist parties in France and Italy lack substance and preparation. Euro exit is not an issue you put on a to-do-list as done recently by Luigi di Maio, the Five Star Movement’s presumptive candidate for the job of prime minister. Euro exit would be an all-absorbing agenda. Those who dare to do it would be defined by this and nothing else. Brexit pre-occupies the British government. Euro exit is an order of magnitude more complicated. The lesson of Greece in 2015 is instructive. A parallel currency was discussed as an idea, but the government did not make any serious preparations. The threat was thus not credible. If the Five Star Movement were to win the Italian elections, it would take the financial markets about five sectors to produce a financial crisis. There would be no bailout from the ECB since the OMT programme does not support countries that are wishing to exit. Italy would be on its own. The government would have to take a decision within minutes of whether to pull the referendum for good, or introduce a parallel currency right away. If it choose to do the latter, it would have to deploy the military, close the borders, and crack down on riots. Munchau doubts that any of the populist parties that are advocating euro exit have really thought this through. They are charlatans, not populists.

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  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • May 09, 2019
  • The EU's impossible dilemma
  • The horsetrading starts in Sibiu
  • May to bring withdrawal bill to Commons week after next
  • September 27, 2018
  • Two ways out of the Brexit impasse
  • February 16, 2018
  • How big will the euro budget be?
  • July 10, 2017
  • EU in self-destruction mode
  • The EU's fault lines
  • Fake News and Fake views
  • November 30, 2016
  • Is Russia behind a massive cyber attack in Germany?
  • Will Fillon move to the centre?
  • The Dutch left field is getting crowded
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • October 18, 2019
  • The horrifying implications of Merkel’s 5G decision
  • April 17, 2019
  • Why it is far from clear that the grand coalition will survive the year
  • Macron's chance and challenge
  • Eurozone firms' surprising response to sagging profits
  • The result of Spain's elections, a riddle wrapped in mystery
  • The MMT debate is coming to Europe - and Germany
  • Greek parliament seeks German war reparations
  • October 15, 2018
  • Black Brexit smoke
  • Bettel can relax and stay in office
  • Solving the crime vs solving the problem
  • April 16, 2018
  • Italy's and Germany's pained response to the Syria attacks
  • On the end of the eurozone's economic honeymoon
  • Why Bulgaria should stay out of the euro
  • Where shall we meet after Brexit?
  • October 16, 2017
  • What‘s the deep meaning of the elections in Lower Saxony?
  • Can Brexit be revoked?
  • Macron's grand narrative
  • April 19, 2017
  • Shadows of money
  • Breppe Grillo vs Eurointelligence
  • October 20, 2016
  • No games please, we are Europeans
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • July 04, 2019
  • What will the European Parliament do?
  • February 21, 2019
  • Sound and fury, but Brexit reality unchanged
  • Supertanker Deutschland moves to join internet age
  • October 12, 2018
  • A deal so close, and yet so far
  • AfD leaves Germans speachless and helpless
  • June 04, 2018
  • German discourse out of control
  • Wait for European disunity on US tariffs
  • January 24, 2018
  • AfD europhobe to chair of Bundestag's budget committee
  • Watch out for the Labour Party debate on the single market
  • On the productivity puzzle
  • September 18, 2017
  • Why Germany cannot lead Europe, let alone the free world
  • Will Macron help to build up Mélenchon?
  • Boris' Coup
  • May 12, 2017
  • What to do with Germany’s tax windfall
  • How Macron counts on building a majority
  • Options for the eurozone
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • August 30, 2016
  • Brexit facts on the ground
  • Burkinis and Republican primaries
  • The SPD and TTIP
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • October 07, 2019
  • What did Conte know?
  • August 27, 2019
  • Remain’s narrowing pathway
  • Macron's diplomatic masterstroke
  • July 09, 2019
  • What the UK polls are telling us - and what not
  • May 31, 2019
  • Salvini’s frightening strength
  • The significance of Corbyn’s latest flipflop on the referendum
  • April 24, 2019
  • May's final and biggest gamble
  • Will the EP be Brexit's great parliamentary beneficiary?
  • Can Loiseau fight the far right given her past?
  • March 18, 2019
  • May's deal still on the table. Don't rule it out.
  • EPP decision on Fidesz still open
  • On the defeat of liberalism
  • February 08, 2019
  • Macron turns stand-off with Italy into a game changer
  • Is there a strategic intent behind Macron's decision?
  • January 04, 2019
  • Will the AfD become the Dexit party?
  • Romania's corruption problem in the spotlight of its EU presidency
  • November 26, 2018
  • Two German plus two Dutch makes four spitzenkandidaten
  • Yellow vest protests - radicalisation and new political alliances
  • October 22, 2018
  • A week of intense political tension in the UK
  • Poland's local elections reveal deeply-split country
  • September 19, 2018
  • Attacks weaken legitimacy of spitzenkandidat model
  • A very German farce
  • August 20, 2018
  • ... and a subtle shift in EU policies towards both Russia and Turkey
  • Nothing to celebrate about the end of the bailout programme
  • Support for Brexit holding up
  • July 09, 2018
  • German panic about Target2
  • AfD level with SPD
  • How the EU could fail
  • June 11, 2018
  • The end of the G7 - good riddance
  • Macron needs allies for his European agenda
  • Who is going to be the next director-general of the Italian treasury?
  • May 14, 2018
  • Catalonia: plus ça change...
  • Conveney says no to Brexit with border infrastructure
  • Why the noble Lords don't really matter
  • April 16, 2018
  • Italy's and Germany's pained response to the Syria attacks
  • On the end of the eurozone's economic honeymoon
  • Why Bulgaria should stay out of the euro
  • Where shall we meet after Brexit?
  • March 19, 2018
  • Waiting for Germany
  • Russia’s friends
  • Can the Commons force an extension of the Art 50 period?
  • February 22, 2018
  • Northern Ireland needs a structured dialogue
  • Something odd about the Italian discourse on Europe
  • January 29, 2018
  • Where is the opposition in France?
  • Scenarios and risks for Syriza over Macedonia
  • January 05, 2018
  • Catalonia's government by Skype
  • The case for EEA membership
  • December 11, 2017
  • A new era for the French right
  • Growing scepticism of a grand coalition
  • November 20, 2017
  • Showdown over Northern Ireland
  • Castaner and his list confirmed
  • Gennimata to lead the new left alliance
  • Brexit‘s ultimate irony
  • October 31, 2017
  • Puigdemont's flight of fancy
  • Hopeless but not serious
  • Serious but not hopeless
  • October 13, 2017
  • Why Austria’s vote matters
  • What a Paris diesel ban would mean for Europe's car industry
  • A Dutch referendum on the Dutch referendum?
  • September 25, 2017
  • Where does this leave eurozone governance reform?
  • Is Mélenchon losing his momentum?
  • Lost in Florence
  • September 06, 2017
  • On the failure of global policy coordination
  • The day Catalonia disobeyed?
  • Waiting for Varadkar
  • August 21, 2017
  • Soft, getting softer
  • Tsipras' chances of a boost
  • On the fallacy of a middle-ground option for the eurozone
  • July 24, 2017
  • Macron's popularity falls amid more budget cuts
  • Orbán to support Polish government against EU
  • No exit from Brexit
  • July 11, 2017
  • The political fallout of the G20 in Germany
  • June 28, 2017
  • Is gay marriage Merkel’s next refugee problem?
  • June 16, 2017
  • The emerging Brexit consensus
  • On the economics of supply chains
  • June 05, 2017
  • What happens to Brexit if Labour wins?
  • What Russia wants
  • May 24, 2017
  • We are all anti-system now
  • Are the UK’s cards in the Brexit talks really that weak?
  • How Merkel will play Macron
  • May 16, 2017
  • After the debacle
  • What is Ireland's role in the EU27?
  • On the EU’s Brexit negotiations
  • May 08, 2017
  • A message of hope
  • Barnier's not so easily agreed Brexit principles
  • The rebirth of the paranoid conspiracy theory
  • May 02, 2017
  • An accident waiting to happen
  • Matteo Renzi wins PD primaries
  • So much for the Schulz effect
  • April 23, 2017
  • The demise of the AfD has accelerated dramatically
  • On how France will need to confront Germany
  • April 19, 2017
  • Shadows of money
  • Breppe Grillo vs Eurointelligence
  • April 15, 2017
  • Happy Easter
  • April 12, 2017
  • Macro in a state of denial
  • Where Schulz is vulnerable
  • Schäuble’s three party tricks
  • April 11, 2017
  • What to expect, and not expect from Schulz
  • The view from Berlin
  • The view from Moscow