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March 23, 2018

European Council supports UK more strongly than expected on Russia

The European Council last night produced a strong statement on Russia, going much further than the rather lukewarm support offered to the UK in the foreign affairs council on Monday. The foreign ministers stopped short of agreeing with the UK assessment, only acknowledging it and taking it seriously. The EU leaders last night went a step further, and gave their full support to the UK. In view of some briefings and news reports we have seen before yesterday's meeting, this development is a surprise.

Several countries are now considering expelling Russian diplomats. In addition to the strong statement blaming Russia for the attacks, the Times reports this morning that Latvia and Estonia are already preparing to expel diplomats, while France and Poland said they will take concrete action in the coming days. Germany hinted that it, too, would take measures.

The European Council made the following declaration last night (emphasis ours):

"It agrees with the United Kingdom government's assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible and that there is no plausible alternative explanation. We stand in unqualified solidarity with the United Kingdom in the face of this grave challenge to our shared security."

There are no sanctions yet agreed at the level of the European Council at this stage. The Council's official position is that it wants to wait until it receive a detailed response from Russia. The statement by the European Council was preceded by a series of bilateral meetings by Theresa May with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, both of whom signalled strong support for the UK.

The Times reports that, as May held her meetings, Vladimir Putin was in contact with Alexis Tsipras, his most loyal supporter in the EU. Greece, along with Italy, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Cyprus, and Austria, are moving away from the EU's consensus on Russia, They had pushed for a weaker version of last night's council resolution, which would have said only that the EU took London's view of the matter "extremely seriously", similarly to the wording used by the foreign ministers on Monday.

We noted a report in FAZ - written before the meeting - which speculated wrongly that Donald Tusk's efforts to harden the language would be opposed by the European Council. And, while the EU has at this stage not agreed to a unified response, the sanctions about to be taken by individual member states are serious. The FAZ story also mentioned the strong support from Manfred Weber, head of the EPP group in the European Parliament, who yesterday talked about a 

"non-declared war of Russia against the European Union,"

an expression that goes further than May's own characterisation of the attack. She stopped short of characterising the attack as an act of war, preferring to use the expression "acts of Russian aggression". Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the foreign affairs committee in the House of Common, talked about a "warlike act", which again is different from an act of war. These linguistic nuances may seem like hair-splitting but diplomats and lawyers spend hours haggling over these terms, which have a precise legal meaning.

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March 23, 2018

Eurozone policy renationalisation is not the solution

Ashoka Mody has an article in VoxEU where he discusses the politics of the eurozone from its origin in the 1970s policy discussions to the recent elections in Germany and Italy which have seen the rise of anti-euro populist parties. The history is well-known: mostly English-speaking economists criticised plans for monetary union since their inception on the grounds that a single monetary policy would cause the diverse national economies of European states to diverge rather than converge. European policymakers argued instead that monetary union would foster political union, and pressed ahead under the idea that there was what he calls a permissive consensus on European integration. But Mody observes that this permissive consensus started to fray at about the time of the euro's introduction, and that this political dynamic has only gotten worse, not better, since the financial crisis.

Mody concludes that there are no easy answers to the eurozone's economic and political woes. In particular peripheral EU states often lag in development of human capital, and national governments need to direct more energy towards this rather than towards the unattainable goal of making eurozone policy more accountable. On that we agree. Where we part ways with him is when he then argues that the answer is to renationalise economic policy rather than pursue more political integration. Re-nationalisation of fiscal policy or banking is not politically sustainable within the existing EU framework. There has to be another way for the EU policy establishment to take into account national concerns, and to stop dismissing national revolts against European integration.

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March 23, 2018

The state of macro is not good

Martin Wolf argues that macroeconomics is a practical discipline that should meet several tests. The first is whether its practitioners understand what might go wrong with an economy, and the second whether they know how to put it right. Halfway through his column, he introduces a third test, whether the knowledge of how to respond to a crisis is put to use. Macroeconomics, he argues, passes the second test - Keynesian remedies of fiscal and monetary stimulus work to recover from a crisis. But the political experience of Europe fails the the test - the remedies were not applied, or were applied too late; and the canonical macroeconomic theory it is based on, rational expectations, and market efficiency, fails the first test. Radical uncertainty explains the existence of institutions such as money, debt, and banks, and the equilibrium macroeconomics tends to ignore them. Wolf concludes that even if the economy is too complex to understand properly, effort should still be spent on the practical problems of making economies more resilient to crises, and fixing economies once crises hit.

While parts of mainstream macro are descended from Keynes, his more radical insights about radical uncertainty are largely beyond the pale. And Martin Wolf is right to point out that Hyman Minsky's ideas about the inherent instability of financial capitalism was more right than the mainstream macroeconomics based on the efficient market hypothesis. Wolf also quotes Willem Buiter decrying at the time of the financial crisis that most macro developments since the 1970s had been inward-looking and largely irrelevant. But Buiter is in the tradition of James Tobin, who got the Nobel prize in 1981 only to have his programme for including finance into macroeconomics sidelined by the rise of DSGE models. So perhaps we know where to look, theoretically, we just haven't been looking in the right place for the past 40 years.

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  • On Germany's foreign policy post-Trump
  • How to lose against the populists
  • 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
  • March 31, 2020
  • Orbán's power grab
  • Why we would like to share the optimism on eurobonds, but can’t.
  • September 30, 2019
  • A pyrrhic victory for Kurz
  • Will there really be UK elections?
  • April 01, 2019
  • Meaningful IV
  • Caputová elected: a turning point for central Europe?
  • October 02, 2018
  • Whatever it takes - diesel version
  • Is Macron's European discourse too simplistic?
  • April 06, 2018
  • Schleswig Holstein collapses Spain's strategy against Catalan separatism
  • On the implausibility of conspiracy theories in the Skripal case
  • October 09, 2017
  • UK is starting to prepare for a no-deal Brexit
  • Why Germany will resist meaningful eurozone reform
  • April 12, 2017
  • Macro in a state of denial
  • Where Schulz is vulnerable
  • Schäuble’s three party tricks
  • October 17, 2016
  • Ceta is dead for now
  • L’après-Hollande, c'est Hollande
  • SPD against Russia sanctions
  • Nissan to join customs union and other fanciful tales
  • 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
  • March 09, 2020
  • Lockdown measures are not working
  • Will the ceasefire hold in Idlib?
  • October 27, 2019
  • German political centre is melting
  • Train drivers in all-out confrontation with Macron
  • Erdogan makes threats again
  • June 18, 2019
  • Retaliation threats over drilling
  • February 04, 2019
  • Watch out for the resurgence in Tory unity
  • The gilets-jaunes' effect on the European elections
  • What did he possibly mean by that?
  • September 27, 2018
  • Two ways out of the Brexit impasse
  • May 22, 2018
  • A €60bn ESM credit line - is this what they call a backstop?
  • Will Nato survive Trump?
  • Northern Ireland's Brexit disillusion
  • Would Corbyn become prime minister if he accepted the single market?
  • January 15, 2018
  • Is the section on Europe for real?
  • Can Drahos upset Zeman?
  • September 11, 2017
  • Turkey issues travel warning for visitors to Germany
  • How nasty is the AfD?
  • May 08, 2017
  • A message of hope
  • Barnier's not so easily agreed Brexit principles
  • The rebirth of the paranoid conspiracy theory
  • 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 24, 2016
  • Towards a hard Brexit
  • Is there a pact of Ventotene?
  • La rentrée
  • 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
  • June 05, 2020
  • What to make of the German fiscal expansion
  • Inequality through and after lockdown
  • April 27, 2020
  • The EU’s trickery of a fake MFF
  • Philippe to put down cards as trust evaporates
  • March 19, 2020
  • A useful step - but much, much more is needed
  • The good that can come out of this
  • February 12, 2020
  • Turkey's standoff with Russia over Idlib
  • Watch out for Renzi
  • January 07, 2020
  • Europe's fast disappearance from the UK debate
  • How to de-escalate with Erdogan?
  • Working less for more
  • December 04, 2019
  • Towards a European green new deal
  • Nato summit on Turkey amid disunity
  • November 01, 2019
  • Beware of the fallacy of composition and hindsight bias - Brexit edition
  • September 30, 2019
  • A pyrrhic victory for Kurz
  • Will there really be UK elections?
  • August 27, 2019
  • Remain’s narrowing pathway
  • Macron's diplomatic masterstroke
  • July 18, 2019
  • Will Johnson's first action on coming to office be to call elections?
  • EU Commission will monitor rule of law in all member states
  • Dijsselbloem, not Carney, is the European frontrunner for the IMF job
  • June 19, 2019
  • What the US-Iran standoff tells us about the EU
  • Is Germany withholding information on right-wing extremism?
  • May 22, 2019
  • Better start those no-deal preparations right now
  • Europe's real transfer union is from east to west
  • 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 26, 2019
  • No, the UK parliament has not taken control
  • Barnier for president?
  • March 01, 2019
  • Stars seem to align in favour of the Brexit deal
  • The hidden traps of the UK rebate
  • Orbán coming dangerously close to EPP expulsion
  • February 04, 2019
  • Watch out for the resurgence in Tory unity
  • The gilets-jaunes' effect on the European elections
  • What did he possibly mean by that?
  • January 09, 2019
  • Trump downgrades EU's diplomatic status, threatens trade war
  • December 18, 2018
  • The secret plots behind the no-confidence motions
  • November 26, 2018
  • Two German plus two Dutch makes four spitzenkandidaten
  • Yellow vest protests - radicalisation and new political alliances
  • November 05, 2018
  • Macron trails behind Le Pen in European elections poll
  • How the CDU will organise leadership campaign
  • October 15, 2018
  • Black Brexit smoke
  • Bettel can relax and stay in office
  • Solving the crime vs solving the problem
  • September 25, 2018
  • Be careful what you wish for - second referendum edition
  • September 05, 2018
  • May’s gamble
  • The ultimate migrant
  • 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 24, 2018
  • A constitutional referendum in Poland?
  • On the future of the euro
  • July 09, 2018
  • German panic about Target2
  • AfD level with SPD
  • How the EU could fail
  • June 25, 2018
  • Trump's car tariff to come early
  • On the lack of a sharp focus in the eurozone debate
  • June 12, 2018
  • The new Italian battle lines
  • A Brexit rebellion squashed, for now
  • Wauquiez - a party leader without followers
  • May 31, 2018
  • Hans Werner Sinn demands German euro exit
  • The politics of the SPD’s links to Russia
  • May 21, 2018
  • Another snap election in the UK? Tories are preparing
  • Merkel and Putin - the beginning of a beautiful friendship?
  • May 10, 2018
  • Time for some clear thinking on Trump and Iran
  • Will Corbyn accept the EEA? Brexiteers can relax. He won't.
  • What next for the DUP?
  • May 02, 2018
  • Galileo row escalates
  • May Day in Paris - violence and dissonance
  • A homeopathic eurozone budget
  • April 25, 2018
  • Macron's pitch to Trump
  • Montoro in Schleswig-Holstein
  • The old world and the new
  • April 18, 2018
  • What Macron did not say in Strasbourg
  • Should we worry about Selmayrgate?
  • April 13, 2018
  • German support for eurozone reform next to zero...
  • ... and no support for France on Syria either
  • A French sermon
  • Why the euro endures
  • April 09, 2018
  • Orbán gets his supermajority
  • Riding the wave of resistance
  • The EU’s self-defeating strategy
  • April 03, 2018
  • Is the time for Brexit revocation running out?
  • March 28, 2018
  • The real reason for the sanctions against Russia
  • Wishful thinking: Brexit edition
  • Wishful thinking: Future of euro edition
  • Wishful thinking: Italy edition
  • March 26, 2018
  • On the run no more
  • Terrorist attack will challenge Macron
  • A double-whammy of geopolitical and financial uncertainty
  • March 23, 2018
  • European Council supports UK more strongly than expected on Russia
  • Eurozone policy renationalisation is not the solution
  • The state of macro is not good