Was der Euro wirklich zur Rettung braucht

Dieser Beitrag erschien im Juni 2018 bei bto:

“What fixes does the Euro really need” ist eine berechtigte Frage, die ich bei bto regelmäßig auf der Agenda haben. Michael Sandbu geht ihr in der FT erneut nach. Schon früher hat er darauf hingewiesen, dass es andere Dinge sind als die, die unsere Politiker immer in den Vordergrund stellen.

Statt mit Blick auf den bevorstehenden Gipfel des European Council von „historischen Chancen“ und Kompromissen zu reden, sollte man sich fragen, um was es eigentlich geht. Sandbu: „What does completing a currency actually mean, and what (and why) is the convergence that is supposedly indispensable?”

Zunächst also die Frage, welche Probleme eigentlich gelöst werden müssen. Denn sonst kann man ja das Ergebnis gar nicht beurteilen.

  • “(…) we should pour cold water on any idea that the euro’s success is synonymous with strong growth and prosperity in all its members. There is little reason to think that a currency regime by itself is a strong determinant of economic growth.” – bto: Es ist und bleibt ein politisches Projekt.
  • What should be expected of a monetary union, however, is that it should be a source of stabilityrather than instability, both for the real economy (so that the mechanisms of a currency do not make downturns worse or otherwise create unnecessary economic costs) and for itself (so as to end any speculation that a member country might leave the currency).” bto: Dazu müsste es aber ökonomisch funktionieren.
  • What must not happen again (…) was the downward spiral in the crisisin which troubles in public finances, banks, and private companies and households all reinforced one another. This intensified the downturns, as governments consolidated their budgets instead of stimulating demand, banks restricted credit and private sector demand shrivelled away.” bto: Das stimmt zwar alles, aber was ist denn mit der Überschuldung, die der Euro gefördert hat. Ist das nicht die eigentliche Ursache, bei der wir ansetzen müssten.
  • “With no source of demand, downward spirals set in that left economies in bad equilibria. On top of this and because of it, capital flight set in on the fear that a country might see that the only way out is leaving the euro.” bto: Das sehe ich, wie gesagt, schon als Ableitung des Problems.
  • To prevent this self-reinforcing instability, there needs to be some countercyclical support of aggregate demand somewhere in the economy: a stabiliser that cushions economic shocks so that output swings are damped in their effect on spending. The one thing this stabiliser will not be in a monetary union is stimulus through devaluation or a national central bank letting loose the money presses.” bto: Ich denke, dies stimmt für eine normale Rezession. Doch dies war nicht der Krisenauslöser, sondern eine Bilanzrezession. Und diese erfordert ganz andere Instrumentarien. Da ist es nicht damit getan, mehr (schuldenfinanziert) nachzufragen.
  • “(…) cross-border stabilisation of demand through government budgets is already stronger in the eurozone than in the US (49 per cent of an unemployment shock is absorbed by the automatic stabilisers in the euro area, whereas the figure for the US is 32 per cent). Stabilisation through private financial channels, however, is much smaller in Europe, due to its more nationally fragmented finance.” bto: So ist es! Hat der IWF schon vor einiger Zeit vorgerechnet. Deshalb sind die Vorschläge von Macron auch so durchsichtig. Es geht nur darum, an deutsches Geld zu kommen.
  • The question is how to improve both. (bto: warum?) On fiscal stabilisation, the obvious observation is that both the EU’s fiscal rules and, in the crisis, the market panic for some governments’ public debt, constrained the ability governments have to stabilise demand. This should lead us to ask how these constraints can be lifted, which directs the focus towards the fiscal rules, the set-up for crisis lending to governments, the restructuring of debt to reduce strains on public budgets, and whether to do fiscal stabilisation at the central as well as the national level.” bto: Warum, das erschließt sich mir nicht, wenn wir es doch schon haben. Schuldenrestrukturierung ist das einzige, was ich hier sehe.
  • On financial and private sector stabilisation, the question is how to better decouple financial institutions’ lending (their assets and investments) and funding (their liabilities)across eurozone economies. This leads to the agenda of a banking union and a capital markets union, in which finance and credit are not tied up with national economies to a destabilising degree.” bto: auch hier, warum und wozu? Es ist doch das Problem von Zombie-Banken und -Unternehmen, unter denen wir leiden. Wie soll sich das ändern durch eine Bankenunion? Im Kern geht es auch hier um die Sozialisierung von Verlusten/faulen Schulden auf europäischer Ebene.
  • “These are the economic functions that a well-tuned monetary union should fulfil. In one sense, it is a much more modest goal than broad-based growth and convergence in prosperity. In another sense (…) it is an ambitious criterion, and the one against with we should test the proposals set out until now and the reformsthat will end up being agreed later this month.” bto: Ich denke, es ist zu oberflächlich, wenngleich tiefergehender als das, was wir an anderer Stelle zu dem Thema zu hören bekommen.

Danach geht es um eine Beurteilung der bisherigen Reformen aus diesem Blickwinkel:

  • How far does the completed work take us in preventing a future crisis from developing like the last one? The answer is: quite far, both institutionally and in terms of policy experience.” bto: Damit ist er deutlich positiver auf den politischen Erfolg zu sprechen als ich. Gut möglich, dass ich mich irre.
  • For fiscal stabilisation, the European Stability Mechanism has half a trillion euros worth of financing for cash-strapped sovereigns. What is more, the writedown of Greek public debtin 2012, without the sky falling, taught policymakers that sovereign defaults can be restructured within the euro, and illustrated good legal techniquesfor doing them.” bto: was a) bedeutet, wir brauchen nicht mehr Geld und b), dass die Politiker sich trauen müssen, diesen Weg vermehrt zu gehen.
  • “For macroeconomic stabilisation via private markets, a game-changing decision in the summer of 2012 was to launch a European banking union. It was endowed with two significant components. One was the Europeanisation of banking rules, regulation and supervision, with the creation of supranational bodies (the single supervisory mechanism and the single resolution board) to ensure a consistent application of uniform rules. The other was the decision to require bail-in — a writedown of banks’ debt — before taxpayers could foot any losses.” bto: was aber nicht glaubwürdig ist. Siehe Italien!
  • There have been huge improvements in policy choices. The universal switch to fiscal tightening in 2010, coupled with interest rate rises in 2011, are primarily to blame for the fact that the eurozone had a second recession while the US kept growing. Since then fiscal policy has been put in neutral, and monetary policy has been much more stimulative. What is more, policymakers went from treating sovereign and bank debt restructuring as anathema to deploying both. Finally, the European Central Bank has explicitly assumed the duty of countering perceived redenomination risk in financial market bets on a country leaving the euro.” bto: Ja, wir konnten eine Schuldenkrise mit mehr Schulden bekämpfen (was immer erst mal gut ist) und die EZB hat die Finanzierungskosten deutlich gesenkt. Auch gut. Aber daraus zu schließen, dass es eine Bewältigung statt nur einer Verschleppung der Krise sei, halte ich für mutig.
  • In a future crisis, a hard-hit country could: seek an ESM emergency loan (or in extremis, restructure its debt); let investors take the hit for bank problems and quickly recapitalise them through creditor bail-in; and expect a less counterproductive macroeconomic policy at the eurozone level and ideally at home.” bto: Das halte ich für illusorisch, siehe den Widerstand aus Frankreich. Es wird immer auf Sozialisierung und nicht auf Bereinigung gesetzt werden.
  • If bail-in is fully adopted, there is less pressing reason for common eurozone fiscal backingfor either bank resolution or deposit insurance; these are not so much must-haves than nice-to-haves.” bto: Ist es da nur natürlich, skeptisch zu sein, wenn genau das aber von uns gefordert wird? Genau, weil man eben diesen Weg nicht gehen möchte!
  • The procyclical policy demands attached to previous emergency loans caused huge damage; if the ESM is to help again, it must accept policies that sustain domestic demandrather than make any downturn worse.” bto: Was aber, wenn die Schulden die Krisenursache sind?
  • If, in a future severe downturn, eurozone policymakers revert to the policies that make things worse, they will reproduce a similar balance-of-payments crisis with the risk for euro membership it entails. This is the prospect feared by those who say further, more powerful stabilisation tools are needed. (…) This is the trade-off that needs to be resolved. Either existing tools and policies are clearly dedicated to allowing proper countercyclical policy, or new tools and institutions that can do this automatically, are needed.” bto: Doch wozu braucht man diese? Nur im Falle einer Schuldenkrise und da muss die Antwort sein, die Schulden zu restrukturieren.
  • Two things in particular seem to be left unaddressed. One is the question of a eurozone-wide safe asset, a benchmark financial security banks can hold on to in difficult times rather than fleeing solely to German government bonds. The absence of this makes balance of payments crises more likely. The other is the importance of letting national fiscal policy — by far the best tool for cross-country stabilisation — do its countercyclical work. That means taking a hard look both at the fiscal rules and at the conditions that might be put in place for emergency lending.” bto: Den letzten Punkt habe ich schon kritisiert. In einer solchen Krise geht es um Schuldenrestrukturierung. Das Safe Asset ist eine Konstruktion wie die CDS, die wir aus der Finanzkrise kennen. Wir mischen also deutsche Anleihen mit griechischen und tun dann so, als wären die alle auf deutschem Niveau. Verkaufen dann Risikotranchen und denken, so aus Mist Gold zu machen. Nun ja.
  • As the Bundesbank’s Jens Weidmann reiterated in a recent speech, responsibility and sovereignty should go hand in hand. To the extent nation states remain responsible for the public finances, in other words, they need to have the freedom to ensure countercyclical policy. There is a bargain to be teased out here that is not currently on the table but should be: a framework for predictable sovereign debt restructuring combined with looser fiscal rules and a presumption of strong fiscal stimulus in the conditions for emergency loans. Now that would be a reform package worth celebrating.” bto: Damit hat Sandbu recht, ist zugleich aber sehr naiv. Die Politik wird Staatspleiten niemals zulassen und deshalb am Ende doch auf EZB und „Solidarität“ setzen.

Und was machen wir nun mit Italien in dem Kontext?

  • Italy’s economic underperformance has nothing to do with monetary matters. It started around 1995, and all its causes are structural and in the gift of Italy’s own leaders to change. (…) Italy needs to stimulate its domestic demand. That is clear from an unemployment rate still above 11 per cent, about 5 percentage points higher than the bottom reached in 2007.” bto: wobei man sich fragen muss, ob  Nachfragestimulierung à la Keynes bei Strukturproblemen hilft.
  • “Rome is not entirely bereft of policy to stimulate demand through credit: while the central bank rate is set in Frankfurt, the transmission to actual borrowing rates for Italian businesses and households is also shaped by Italian policymakers’ effortsn— and especially their failuresn— to restructure banks, shifting bad loans out of their portfolios and writing down their bond debtsif necessary, so as to be left with well-capitalised lenders.” bto: was natürlich zu der Frage führt, weshalb man bei einer solch klaren Analyse eine Bankenunion befürworten kann. Denn dann zahlen andere für diese italienische Altlast.
  • “(…) the more direct tool for stimulating demand in the Italian economy is clearly fiscal policy. (…) Italy is well within the 3 per cent of GDP deficit limit. The rules also require aiming for rough structural fiscal balance (the deficit adjusted for the economic cycle) and reducing debt. But as the Italian government has been fighting over with Brussels for years, it makes little sense to consider the Italian economy near its potential today.” bto: Klartext – Italien hat gute Argumente für mehr Schulden.
  • “The second supposed obstacle is the bond market. (…) higher cost on new borrowing only slowly makes its mark on the government budget as old debt is gradually refinanced. So long as markets do not shut down altogether, Italy could simply pay the higher rates for an extended period. Such a bond market strike — where the government could not sell bonds at any price — would be the third obstacle, and the only really serious one. Even in the depth of the sovereign debt crisis, Italy did not get to this point; and there is much less reason for it to happen now.” bto: unter anderem weil die EZB und die Banca d`Italia alles aufkaufen.
  • “But if, hypothetically, it did, Italy could in extremis postpone almost all its financing needs by stretching out the maturities of its debt. It has powerful legal tools to make bondholders agree to this, and it can do so without reducing their income flows from their bonds. In the very last instance, of course, Rome could seek an emergency loan from the European Stability Mechanism to cover its (small) headline deficits.” bto: Letzteres natürlich ungern, weil es formal mit Auflagen verbunden ist.
  • “(…) in either case, the harm comes not from the euro’s designbut from bad policy choices withinit.” bto: Das ist eine starke Aussage, die ich nicht teile. Ich bezweifle, dass man sich schuldenfinanziert aus der Überschuldung bringt.
  • “How would the reforms for deepening the euro currently being discussed make any of this better? The further changes to the banking union, largely agreed, reduce the risk of bank instabilityin the hypothetical predicament sketched out above. That would make countercyclical policy easier.” bto: Ja, mag sein, ist aber schon heute eine direkte Umverteilung.
  • “A common fiscal stabilisation mechanism might marginallysupport demand in Italy, either directly or by supporting Rome’s own spending. But even such support would be undone by a continued insistence on fiscal consolidation in the wrong part of the economic cycle.” bto: also ebenfalls weder nötig noch hilfreich.

Und dann das entscheidende Fazit: “(…) calls for institutional reform beyond what is already done, or close to done, are largely reactions to the political failure to choose to sensibly use existing institutions. If that political failure exists, why should we think any new institutions will be managed any better? And if the political failure can be remedied, it is not clear what need is for many new institutions.” bto: Ich denke, weil es in Wahrheit um die Umverteilung geht und nicht um die Rettung des Euro.

→ ft.com (Anmeldung erforderlich): “The euro has come a long way” , 12. Juni 2018

→ ft.com (Anmeldung erforderlich): “What can we expect from the euro summit?” , 13. Juni 2018

→ ft.com (Anmeldung erforderlich): “What can we expect from the euro summit?” , 13. Juni 2018

→ ft.com (Anmeldung erforderlich): “Euro countries’ fate is still in their own hands” , 14. Juni 2018