The Possibility of a Euro Finance Minister – A New Office Bringing Little Added Value to Europe
| Press release
EconPol Analysis on the EU Reform Debate
Creating the office of “Euro Minister of Economy and Finance” will not be able to solve the main problems facing fiscal coordination in Europe. This is the finding of a recent study conducted by a European team in the EconPol Europe research network and coordinated by the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW), Mannheim. The study was presented at a seminar in Brussels today. “The creation of a European finance minister should by no means be a priority in Eurozone reform. We run the considerable risk of creating a new, impressive title with no actual substance. This could ultimately end up doing further damage to the reputation of the Eurozone,” says Friedrich Heinemann, head of the ZEW Research Department “Corporate Taxation and Public Finance” and coordinator of the research team.
The creation of this position is one of the central reform ideas for the Eurozone suggested by French President Emmanuel Macron. The European Commission envisions such a minster assuming a far-reaching role in steering and coordinating EU financial policy.
Based on current plans being considered, a Euro Minister for Economy and Finance would act as representative for the Eurozone, not only to the rest of the world, but also within the structure of the International Monetary Fund. The minister would also be responsible for coordinating structural reforms and fiscal policy in the Member States and controlling European budget instruments, while also playing a considerable role in monitoring the implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact. The main question the ZEW/EconPol analysis sought to address was the extent to which this new office could explicitly contribute to the resolution of the main issues facing the Eurozone in the following four areas:
The Stability and Growth Pact’s disappointing lack of effectiveness can largely be attributed to strong political interference. For this reason, the study recommends that the European Fiscal Board assume a more prominent role as an independent budgetary watchdog. According to the study, giving considerable influence to a politically motivated minister who is also a member of the Commission would be a step in precisely the wrong direction.
European public goods
The authors of the study were not particularly optimistic that a finance minister would be in a position to reorient the EU budget to focus more on truly European public goods. The over-representation of agriculture and cohesion policy in the EU budget is the result of the vested interests of the Member States, an issue that a new minister has little chance of curtailing.
The analysis is somewhat more optimistic with regard to the minister’s potential role in coordinating stabilisation policy. At a time when new instruments for the Eurozone are being created, controlling these instruments would naturally fall under the purview of the minister. However, the ZEW/EconPol team found it unrealistic that this “superminister” would be able to persuade Member States with healthy finances to increase spending in order to stimulate growth in other economies.
The analysis also concedes that the minister could play a helpful role in improving the incentives for Member States to implement structural reforms that are conducive to growth. A new minister could ensure a more effective exchange of information between countries and also create financial incentives for reform.
For more information please contact:
Prof. Dr. Friedrich Heinemann, Phone 0049 / 621 / 1235-149, E-mail Friedrich.Heinemann@zew.de
About EconPol Europe
ZEW is one of the nine partner institutions in the “European Network for Economic and Fiscal Policy Research” (EconPol Europe). As an international and independent network bringing together several hundred researchers, EconPol Europe is establishing a new voice for research in the discussion surrounding the future of economic and fiscal policy in the European Union. Headed by the Munich-based ifo Institute, the founding charter for EconPol Europe was signed on 22 June 2017. Alongside ZEW and ifo, the other partner institutions are the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS, Brussels), the Centre d’Études Prospectives et d’Informations Internationales (CEPII, Paris), the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS, Vienna), the Toulouse School of Economics, the University of Oxford (Centre for Business Taxation), the University of Trento (Department for Economics and Management) and the VATT Institute for Economic Research (VATT, Helsinki). For more information on the research network, please visit http://www.econpol.eu/about_econpol_europe
The Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW), Mannheim
ZEW is one of Germany’s leading economic research institutes and enjoys a strong reputation throughout Europe. ZEW works in the field of cutting-edge empirical research in economics. The institute especially distinguished itself by working on internationally comparative studies in the context of Europe and by creating important scientific data bases, e.g. the Mannheim Innovation Panel (MIP) and the ZEW Start-up Panel. ZEW’s key objectives are to conduct excellent economic research, provide science-based economic policy advice and transfer knowledge. ZEW was founded in 1991 and employs a staff of approximately 170, two thirds of whom are researchers.
www.zew.de / www.zew.eu