• Feb. 4, 2011

    Energy: Nabucco’s comeback

    Energy: Nabucco’s comeback

    Since its launching in 2002, the Nabucco pipeline project has had several lives. Many times it was given as death, but it finally managed to rise from its own ashes. Even though the Russian-Ukrainian gas crisis in 2006 transformed Nabucco into a top priority European project, in the last few years it advanced a little but backed up a lot, resulting in barely concealed mockery. This pattern is true and depicts Nabucco’s situation before the economic crisis. The latter, with its negative effects, brought a breath of fresh air for the European project and its proponents have used it rather wisely. The latest developments in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are encouraging with regard to the equation of supply sources. It seems that Nabucco is back.

  • Dec. 23, 2010

    The European debt crisis: worrisome delusion

    The European debt crisis: worrisome delusion

    In the December 17 issue of the Financial Times, Lorenzo Bini-Smaghi has produced a brilliant, if slightly patronizing, defense of the no-default strategy currently pursued by the euro area authorities. His arguments are that public debts are widely-held instruments so that a default would harm domestic banks and domestic citizens, possibly triggering bank runs and forcing governments to take administrative measures like the Argentinean corralito, that true democracies do not do this kind of things, that it would be a “quick fix” with much worse consequences than tight fiscal policies and structural reforms. These are mostly solid arguments though it would be interesting to understand why democracies cannot default and what structural reforms have to do with fiscal discipline and, if they do, how soon their beneficial effects can be felt. (in French; an English version has been published on VoxEU)

  • Nov. 5, 2010

    EU: tax harmonization in sight?

    EU: tax harmonization in sight?

    Led by EU Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta, the new Tax Policy Group brings together personal representatives of EU Finance Ministers to discuss key tax policy issues. The Group aims to work on fundamental topics such as how taxation can contribute to a stronger Internal Market, to the growth and competitiveness of Europe's economy and to a "greener" economy. It will also serve as a forum for deeper discussion on priority matters, such as financial sector taxation, common consolidated corporate tax base and the new VAT Strategy. What are the prospects for tax harmonization? (in French)

  • Nov. 4, 2010

    The 2010 French pension reform

    The 2010 French pension reform

    The 2010 French pension reform has now been passed by the French Parliament, after weeks of protests, strikes and even riots, all of which have aroused incomprehension in foreign media. The headline increase of the “legal retirement age” from 60 to 62 sounded to most pundits a very small step towards the sustainability of public finances when many European countries have already increased normal retirement age to age 67 or even 68. This short piece is not about the reasons behind the acute reaction of the French street – which would encompass much more than pensions. It aims simply at presenting the reform, its likely distributional impact and its effect in terms of financial sustainability. (in French; Italian version on LaVoce, English version to be published on VoxEU).

  • Oct. 29, 2010

    What does People's Bank of China's latest rate hike tell us?

    What does People's Bank of China's latest rate hike tell us?

    On 19 October, the People’s Bank of China announced a series of rate hikes. Although economists have been arguing for monetary tightening for months, this move was a surprise to many in the market. This column argues that the moves were aimed at combating domestic inflation and addressing the risks of an asset bubble. (French version on Telos, English version on VoxEU).

  • Oct. 15, 2010

    The Two Rebalancing Acts

    The Two Rebalancing Acts

    A “strong, balanced, and sustained world recovery” as demanded by the G20 is a daunting challenge for policymakers. This column argues that two rebalancing acts are required: internal rebalancing – replacing government spending with private-sector demand, and external rebalancing – addressing the global imbalances between exporting and importing countries. These two rebalancing acts, it adds, are taking too long. (French version on Telos, English version on VoxEU).

  • Oct. 1, 2010

    Beyond New Labour?

    Beyond New Labour?

    This week, the Labour Party’s annual conference was marked by the inaugural speech of its new leader, Ed Miliband. The campaign for the leadership of the Labour Party had been perilously close: Ed Miliband only emerged as leader after four rounds of voting. His brother, David Miliband, former Foreign Minister in the government of Gordon Brown, had been the favourite to win the election. Keen to appease the tensions that the campaign had unleashed within the Party, Ed Miliband’s first speech as leader was a reconciliatory affair: the Guardian newspaper warmly described him as staking out the reformist centre-ground, much like Tony Blair had done in the mid 1990s. But what of New Labour? And what future for the British left?

  • Sept. 29, 2010

    EU: new ways of the small and middle economies

    EU: new ways of the small and middle economies

    A quick trip through the Czech Republic, Sweden, Slovakia and Poland offers curious impressions of economic situation. All these countries are seeing a fast economic recovery of around 4 percent this year, and the contrast could hardly be greater to the current US depressed mood. Unemployment is the main concern but bubbles are on their way. One can also wonder about the policies carried in these countries whose leaders speak a new language.

  • Sept. 22, 2010

    ‘Roma crisis’ and EU’s neighborhood

    ‘Roma crisis’ and EU’s neighborhood

    In a spectacular move, France, a founding member State, has been sharply criticized by European MPs over its Roma expulsion policy. Since the beginning of the crisis, President Sarkozy is standing firm on its tough immigration policy, in spite of a wave of criticisms both within France and abroad. Starting as a French issue, it has had an impact on the French-Romanian relations, two traditional allies. At a European level, it may be not without serious implications for a country like Ukraine, which seeks a prospect of integration within the EU. (in French)

  • Sept. 16, 2010

    Iraq: US troops leave, violence remains

    Iraq: US troops leave, violence remains

    Since August 31, there are no more U.S. combat forces in Iraq. However the complete drawdown of U.S. troops won't occur before December 2011. In Baghdad, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said he was confident in the ability of Iraq’s new security forces to take the lead, adding that he was delighted by Iraq’s recovery of « its independence and sovereignty. » But does this guarantee the return to stability and the end of violence? This is far from certain.

  • Sept. 16, 2010

    Bank regulation reform: moving, ever so slowly in Europe

    Bank regulation reform: moving, ever so slowly in Europe

    Three years after the bank crisis began, two years after it exploded, the policymaking response is moving forward, but surprisingly slowly. Two important steps have just been taken, a superficial one at the European level, a more fundamental one at the international level. In the EU politicians seem unable to resist the powerful lobbying of the banking industry while Basel III has so far side-stepped the all-important issue of systemically-important financial institutions. (in French)

  • Sept. 16, 2010

    Is G20 economic coordination already passé?

    Is G20 economic coordination already passé?

    Since the G20 leaders first met in Washington in November 2008, much hope has been placed in this new coordination group for the global economy. The G20 summit meeting in London in April 2009 will especially go down in history as the moment when leaders from the world successfully united forces to ward off depression. But times have changed and after a rather disappointing summit meeting in Toronto last June, there are grounds to ask whether international economic coordination among G20 countries is already passé.

  • Sept. 12, 2010

    Taking Stock of Europe's Financial Reform

    Taking Stock of Europe's Financial Reform

    Financial regulation, more than other domains of economic policy, is open to misinterpretation. Since most economists abandoned it for a long time, it lacks solid analytical and empirical foundations. Since it affects directly the actors of the powerful financial industry, it has to bear an excessive and constant lobbying that influences the terms of the debate. And since it applies to activities often hyperspecialized and geographically concentrated, its ins and outs are rather difficult to understand for outsiders. (in French)

  • July 19, 2010

    EU economic governance needs more democracy

    EU economic governance needs more democracy

    May 2010 will go down in history as the beginning of greater economic solidarity in the European Union as a result of the one-two punch of the Greek loan agreed on May 3 and the massive loan guarantee mechanism of May 9-10. But what shape that union will take remains unclear. German Chancellor Merkel wants more governance by rules, to enshrine restrictive budgetary discipline and draconian punishments for violators. French President Sarkozy wants more governance by leaders, with Eurozone countries to form a kind of economic government that determines Eurozone policy on an on-going basis. Neither will work, the first because it is too rigid as well as economically problematic, the second because it is too flexible as well as politically problematic. Neither, moreover, is very democratic.

  • July 16, 2010

    EU: let's create independent, national budget committees

    EU: let's create independent, national budget committees

    The sovereign debt crisis revealed the institutional weaknesses of fiscal policies in Europe. To an institutional weakness, it must be given an institutional response. How? We propose the creation of independent, national budget committees, as well as a European committee that would evaluate, on the basis of the information provided by the national committees, the impact of national fiscal policies for the Eurozone. Comparable to the European organization of competition or financial regulation, such an architecture would preserve national sovereignty in fiscal policies while offering a European diagnosis on the economic policy. (in French)

  • June 23, 2010

    Emergency vs. Emergency

    Emergency vs. Emergency

    In 1980, the French public debt amounted to 20% of GDP. In 2007, before the crisis, it had risen to 65%. By 2011, it could exceed 85%. The time has come to roll the debt back. It is an urgent task to design a process that reverses the political failures of the last thirty years. But it is equally important to ensure that the weak recovery under way does not stall or, worse, that we end up with a new recession. Thus we face two seemingly incompatible emergencies. Governments seem owed by the financial markets’ “request” for stern deficit-cutting measures, but the markets seem to understand that a new recession will deepen the deficit. This article argues that there is no such incompatibility. (in French)

  • June 20, 2010

    Senior Workers: Less Charges, More Jobs?

    Senior Workers: Less Charges, More Jobs?

    In order to increase the proportion of employed senior workers, it has been suggested to cut their and their employers’ social security contributions. That proposal deserves attention, since it acknowledges the necessity of raising the senior workers’ employment rate, still very low in France. But such a policy may be flawed and in the context of the pension system reform one may think twice before implementing it. (in French)

  • June 18, 2010

    A Downgraded Europe?

    A Downgraded Europe?

    In 2007, a group presided by Felipe González was set up to write a report on “the future of Europe”, which was delivered to the European Counsel on June 17th. One understands that right now the priorities may be concentrated on finding parades to the attacks of the markets, rather than to envision the distant future of the Union. But this report is capital in more than one way. First because the relief that followed the signature of the Lisbon Treaty gave place to the question of what to do in the next twenty years. Second because the financial crisis obviously imposes to reform the European model of governance and the European policies. (in French)

  • Feb. 17, 2010

    When Ukraine meets with China

    When Ukraine meets with China

    No wonder that Ukraine remains a country profoundly torn between a pro-West and a pro-East vector, i.e. EU and Russia. Beyond this oft-described black-and-white opposition, the striking geopolitical reality for the coming years may not be the swing toward one or the other pole, but rather the arrival of China as a central player in the EU neighbourhood.

  • July 8, 2009

    Attempting the Impossible: constructing Life out of Digital Records

    Attempting the Impossible: constructing Life out of Digital Records

    Human living and knowing are bound to vacillate between the sensible and the intelligible, what can be experienced through the senses and what can be thought (including counting and calculation) without immediate reference to palpable reality. Perception is a vital and inseparable component of living and, though shaped by culture, it is firmly anchored into the human sensorium. At the same time, living and knowing always transcend the givens of perception and entail cognitive operations that lack ostensive reference, being conceptual or abstract.