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Money for structural reforms in the eurozone: making sense of contractual arrangements. Egmont Paper 57, May 2013

Vanden Bosch, Xavier (2013) Money for structural reforms in the eurozone: making sense of contractual arrangements. Egmont Paper 57, May 2013. [Policy Paper]

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    Executive Summary. Both the Commission’s proposal for a ‘Competitiveness and Convergence Instrument’ and the ‘contractual arrangement’ presented by President Van Rompuy share a common concept: associating EU money with national structural reforms under a binding arrangement. The targeted ‘structural reforms’ are the labour market reforms and product and services market reforms in eurozone ‘peripheral’ countries facing the most severe external imbalances. Their implementation would speed up and facilitate the ‘internal devaluation’ process of these countries. In the worst case scenario, failure to adopt the necessary reforms and to adjust wages and prices downwards may lead the most vulnerable countries to leave the eurozone under social and political pressure. Contracts seek to reduce this risk by increasing compliance with the country-specific recommendations for structural reforms issued by the EU institutions within the European Semester, and in particular with the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure (MIP). As for the financial support, it follows two different, albeit overlapping rationales. First, the perspective of obtaining EU funding would incentivize the governments of vulnerable countries to adopt reforms that would bear a high political and social cost in the short term. That is, without some form of incentive, it is unlikely that the necessary reforms would be undertaken and this could have significant negative consequences for the EMU as a whole. The second rationale amounts to outright solidarity: EU support is needed to cushion the inevitable socio-economic costs implied not only by the structural reform, but also by the internal devaluation taking place. To make sense of contractual arrangements, some points should be considered in future discussions: 1. Contracts on a voluntary basis only: Contracts cannot be mandatory unlike initially suggested in the Van Rompuy report. This stems not only from the inherent definition of a ‘contract’ – where mutual consent is key – but also from the non-binding nature of the preventive arm of the MIP. Making the country-specific recommendations issued by the EU institutions systematically binding would imply transfers of sovereignty from the national to the EU level that go well beyond the present discussion. Instead, contracts would introduce the possibility of making the preventive arm binding for some countries where corrections are most needed and urgent for the EMU as a whole.

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    Item Type: Policy Paper
    Uncontrolled Keywords: National structural reforms.
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > employment/labour market > labour/labor
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > Egmont : Royal Institute for International Affairs > Egmont Papers
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 27 Aug 2013 14:34
    Number of Pages: 44
    Last Modified: 27 Aug 2013 14:34

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