Strengthening the euro area

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Series Details No.22, September 2014
Publication Date September 2014
ISSN 1783-2462
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Since 2007, a series of acute crises have threatened the very existence of the euro area. The financial crisis which spilled into the currency union in 2007 was followed by an unexpectedly strong downturn of the real economy. As of 2010, the euro area was confronted with a severe sovereign debt and banking crisis.

Despite these troublesome developments, the euro area has proven to have a considerable degree of resilience. In each phase, governance weaknesses were revealed – and national governments together with the EU institutions have designed an impressive series of policy responses in crisis management and institutional innovation. The euro area today is completed by a banking union with a Single Supervisory and a Single Resolution Mechanism. National budgetary and economic policies are more closely overseen and coordinated. With the European Stability Mechanism, the euro area now has a permanent tool in place to manage sovereign liquidity crises and instabilities in the banking sector. Most importantly, the euro area's only true federal institution, the European Central Bank (ECB), has become its most effective crisis manager: with the announcement of its Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) programme, the ECB finally managed to calm the self fulfilling crisis in 2012. Meanwhile, the announcement of credit easing and quasi-quantitative easing in September 2014 is a move towards reducing financial fragmentation and countering deflation.

The euro area in 2014 is hence a lot different from the one in 2007. And yet, further challenges need to be overcome. Prevailing stagnation, fragmentation and problems of legitimacy require a rethink of policies and further governance reform.

This article forms part of an issue of Challenge Europe called 'Challenges and new beginnings: Priorities for the EU’s new leadership' at the launch of a new EU institutional cycle 2014-2019 began.

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