Munich Personal RePEc Archive

On the European debt crisis

Beker, Victor (2014): On the European debt crisis.

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Abstract

A common explanation for the European debt crisis has been that the introduction of the euro in 2001 caused interest rates to fall in those countries where expectations of high inflation previously kept interest rates high. Bond buyers assumed that a bond issued by any government in the European Monetary Union was equally safe. As a result, the interest rates on Greek, Italian, etc. government bonds were not significantly different from the interest rate on the German government bonds. Governments responded to the low interest rates by increasing their borrowing. However, data do not endorse this explanation, as is shown in the paper. An alternative explanation has been that the European debt crisis was just a consequence of the American subprime one. Again, data do not entirely support this hypothesis although the connection between both crises is explored in the paper. A third argument states that the introduction of the euro, and its effects on external competitiveness, triggered mounting disequilibria and debt accumulation in the noncore countries or periphery. This argument seems to be valid to a certain extent just in the cases of Greece and Portugal, but not for the rest of the countries involved in the crisis where other factors seem to have played a major role. A distinction is made between a first group of countries whose debt problems have roots before 2007 but did not worsen significantly after that year and a second one of ¨new¨ highly indebted countries. Finally, Spain appears as a special case. The development of the indebtedness process in these three different types of countries allows isolating the factors which were determinant in each case. The conclusion is that the European indebtedness process does not accept a unique explanation and its solution will necessarily require resource transfers from the richer to the poorer countries of the euro-zone.The mechanism of the European redemption pact proposed in the 2011 annual report of the German Council of Economic Experts (GCEE) may be one way of doing this.

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