Wednesday 23 April 2014

Currently browsing 'Euro & Finance'

In early 2010, fears of a sovereign debt crisis, the 2010 Euro Crisis developed concerning some European states. What should be the response? How should economic and financial policies be coordinated at the EU level?


EU Ausreden

Posted by on 08/04/14

Der Auftritt des neuen französischen Finanzministers Michel Sapin in Berlin machte deutlich, dass Zweifel am Sparwillen der französischen Regierung allzu berechtigt sind. Was die französische Politik in wolkige Aussagen packt, ist ein Affront. Die EU-Kommission und der Rat der europäischen Finanzminister sind der Regierung in Paris im laufenden Defizitverfahren schon zweimal entgegengekommen. Weitere Zugeständnisse darf es nicht geben, wenn darunter nicht ein weiteres Mal die Glaubwürdigkeit des europäischen Stabilitäts- und Wachstumspakts leiden soll. Europa muss den Ausreden der Defizitsünder entgegentreten. Nicht zuletzt zu diesem Zweck sind auch die Verfahren zur Haushaltskontrolle verschärft worden.

Die EU-Kommission und die europäischen Finanzminister haben keine andere Wahl, als auf die Erfüllung der Vereinbarung zu bestehen. Wenn die französische Politik das Defizitverfahren auf die leichte Schulter nimmt, werden sich südeuropäische Länder daran ein schlechtes Beispiel nehmen.

A taxing problem: EU-Africa and illicit finance

Posted by on 02/04/14

By Natalia Alonso, Oxfam’s EU Head of Office and Javier Pereira, Action Aid’s Europe Advocacy Coordinator

The EU must seize an important opportunity this week to strengthen its ties with its neighbours to the south. At the centre of the Fourth EU-African summit in Brussels is the idea of cooperation, finding common ground on concerns that affect both regions. If that is indeed the aim, then one issue in particular should be at top of the agenda – how to tackle illicit financial flows. This is a scourge for everyone around the table.

Illicit financial flows are a problem which affects every country regardless of their global economic standing. A huge part of it is companies exploiting loopholes, pushing their profits off-shore in order to pay less tax. There are few countries which aren’t affected by the practice, whether it is Starbucks and Apple dodging millions in the UK or Associated British Food in Zambia. This is the reason the G20 asked the OECD, a think tank dominated by rich countries, to look into the problem and find constructive ways to tackle it.

Illicit financial flows are a big deal for the developing world too. Each year around $950 billion worth of money is drained from some of the world’s poorest countries, leaving gaping holes in their economies, hampering development in the process. This is seven times the volume of global overseas aid, making the figure not just morally reprehensible but self-defeating in the fight against poverty.

Sub-Saharan Africa is being particularly hard hit. If Ethiopia could capture just 10% of the money that loses each year through corporate tax dodging, it could enroll 1.4 million more children in school. African nations are losing nearly 2 per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP) as a result of companies fiddling the books through ‘trade mispricing’. If G20 nations were hit as hard by corporate tax dodging as Africa, they’d have a $1.2 trillion hole in their budgets.

We think it is promising that the OECD has paid such close attention recently to reforming global tax rules. But for any new measures to be truly effective it is vital that the countries that are most impacted are the same ones that be consulted the most closely. It is difficult, however, to imagine these reforms will have a global reach when only one African nation, G20 member South Africa, currently has a seat at the negotiation table.

The OECD’s proposals deal with the issue from the perspective of developed countries. There is little recognition being given to the priorities and needs of the developing world. Look at the recent agreement on a new international standard: the automatic exchange of information. This is a genuinely progressive decision that will allow the 20 wealthiest countries to automatically share tax information. How troubling therefore that poor countries will not receive any information that can help them fight tax dodgers because they cannot produce the required information themselves. This will result in a two-speed system: whilst most developed countries will have the capabilities to trade important tax information, those countries who stand to gain the most from the practice will be left in the dark.

Europe and Africa should also promote together greater transparency on who owns companies and where they pay their taxes, seriously assess the impact of tax incentives and remove those that are detrimental, and create a real global space to discuss tax reforms where poor can voice their needs.

A fairer tax system should also include innovative taxes, like a Financial Transactions Tax that 11 European countries agreed to implement this year. Part of the revenue should be spent on the fight against poverty and climate change, as a concrete engagement for the EU-Africa relationship.

The European Union is a key partner to Africa, so it is vital that any policies decided upon in the EU or the OECD are truly inclusive and work to the benefits of all. Accepting that this truly global problem needs a global solution is the first step.

Mark Boleat: City consensus — the UK belongs in the EU, with or without EU reforms

Posted by on 29/03/14

“The consensus in the City is that the United Kingdom belongs in the EU. Period. End of story. Even if we do not get reforms, we must remain in the EU. (…) We have made it clear to the government that as far as the City is concerned, there is no need to reclaim powers [from Brussels; rg]. We want one internal market for financial services, which means more will have to be done at the European level.”
– Mark Boleat, Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee of the City of London, quoted in a Dutch newspaper article (Titia Ketelaar, ‘Britse euroscepsis schaadt positie van Londense City’, NRC Handelsblad, 24 March 2014, Economy section, p. S10).

Dutch original:
“De consensus in de City is dat het Verenigd Koninkrijk in de EU hoort. Punt. Einde verhaal. Zelfs als we geen hervormingen krijgen [in de EU; rg], moeten we in de EU blijven. (…) We hebben de [Britse; rg] regering duidelijk gemaakt dat wat de City betreft er geen bevoegdheden hoeven te worden teruggehaald. We willen één interne markt voor financiële diensten, en dat betekent dat er meer op Europees niveau moet worden gedaan.”
– Mark Boleat, voorzitter van de Commissie Beleid en Middelen van de City [= het financiële centrum] van London, geciteerd in Titia Ketelaar, ‘Britse euroscepsis schaadt positie van Londense City’, NRC Handelsblad, 24 maart, katern Economie, p. S10).

Società anonime e l’Unione Europea

Posted by on 24/03/14

Sono nel Parlamento europeo e vado a seguire una conferenza con la mia amica A. Intanto, parliamo di società anonime: quelle aziende che hanno una tale frammentazione del pacchetto sociale da essere di fatto anonime e che sono generalmente usate per riciclare denaro sporco o non pagare le tasse.

«Sono state usate dell’ex presidente ucraino Viktor Yanucovych per nascondere il denaro che rubava» mi fa notare A. sulle scale mobili che portano dal primo al terzo piano.

«L’undici marzo il Parlamento Europeo ha votato per alcune norme sul riciclaggio e per la creazione di un registro pubblico che elenchi i veri proprietari delle aziende» aggiungo io.

«Hanno votato 643 a favore e 30 contro» mi interrompe A.

«Manca ancora il passaggio al Consiglio europeo, ma, con un appoggio così forte nel Parlamento, il Consiglio europeo non dovrebbe cambiare troppo la direttiva» dico mentre attraversiamo lo spazio di fronte al press centre.

«Esatto! La presidenza italiana avrà un ruolo importante nel promuovere l’iter e fare in modo che la direttiva sia votata in modo definitivo nel 2015».

«Tra l’altro, sul sito del TED pochi giorni ho visto un video sulle società anonime: ne parlava Charmian Gooch, la cofondatrice di “Global Witness” e vincitrice del TED Prize 2014». Le spiego come in quel video Gooch descriva i motivi per cui è importante cambiare, aggiungo che la sua ONG sta portando avanti una campagna mondiale e concludo che nella sua presentazione la Gooch cita l’Unione Europea per il passo in avanti che è stato fatto.

«E dove trovo questo video?»

«Sul sito internet di TED, il titolo è My wish: To launch a new era of openness in business».

Per chi fosse interessato alla Risoluzione legislativa del Parlamento Europeo, consiglio il link:

Per chi fosse interessato al video di Charmian Goosh, consiglio il link:

Per chi fosse interessato alla campagna di Global Witness contro le aziende anonime consiglio il sito:

¿De qué nos sirve una Unión Bancaria si no armonizamos la fiscalidad europea?

Posted by on 21/03/14

Tras casi 17 horas consecutivas de negociación, Eurocámara y Consejo Europeo acordaron la creación de un Mecanismo Único de Resolución (MUR), el segundo pilar de la unión bancaria y el proceso más ambicioso de integración europea tras la introducción del euro. Ha costado años desde el inicio de la crisis con la caída de Lehman Brothers en septiembre de 2008 que los europeos alcancemos un acuerdo para rescatar nuestras entidades financieras y con ello nuestra moneda el euro. Así de lento caminamos porque los intereses de algunos países, Alemania a la cabeza y los beneficios de los principales banqueros nos han impuesto los sacrificios para la teórica recuperación que dicen vivimos. Pero todos estos años de ardua negociación nos están poniendo a las puertas de una auténtica política monetaria común y de convertir al BCE en el supervisor al estilo de la Reserva Federal de EE.UU. que precisamos. No pondré pegas a un paso ansiado y necesario, pero si me gustaría advertir de que finalmente estamos construyendo una Unión Bancaria, como ya sucedió con el euro, a la medida de Alemania y, en segundo lugar, que mientras no se avance en políticas que posibiliten la armonización fiscal en la zona euro, seguiremos cojos, sino paralíticos, en la defensa de un espacio económico común.

El MUR permitirá liquidar bancos problemáticos de la zona euro desde una autoridad central y financiar las operaciones con un fondo de 55.000 millones de euros aportados gradualmente por las propias entidades. El acuerdo final respeta muchas de las líneas rojas trazadas por Alemania, como el veto a una red de seguridad pública que financie al fondo si se queda sin dinero, pero a cambio, cede en un punto clave: la mutualización de riesgos, aunque progresiva, se concentrará en los primeros años.


Conviene reseñar los detalles principales de este trascendental paso:

1) La banca aportará los 55.000 millones de euros en 8 años, frente a los 10 propuestos inicialmente por el Consejo Europeo. Según los cálculos del Ministerio de Economía, a España le corresponderá un 15% de esa cantidad, unos 8.200 millones de euros.

2) La mutualización de riesgos de ese fondo se concentrará en los primeros años: 40% en el primer año y 20% más en el segundo. A partir del tercer año, se sumará un 6,7% anual durante 6 años. El fondo estará 100% mutualizado en ocho años.

3) Tanto el BCE como el Consejo de Resolución del MUR (su cúpula directiva) podrán decidir que un banco está a punto de quebrar e iniciar el proceso que podría acabar en liquidación de la entidad.

4) La Comisión Europea diseñará los planes de liquidación de los bancos problemáticos y el Consejo solo participará a petición de la propia Comisión. Sin embargo, en caso de discrepancia entre la Comisión y el Consejo de Resolución, la última palabra la tendrá el Consejo. Además, la mayoría de decisiones importantes se adoptarán por el Consejo de Resolución al completo (que incluye las autoridades de resolución nacionales), por lo que los Gobiernos conservan mucha influencia en todo el proceso.

5) La decisión de liquidar una entidad podrá realizarse en un fin de semana.

6) Durante la fase de transición, el MUR, concretamente su Fondo Único de Resolución, podrá pedir prestado en el mercado, aunque sin respaldo público paneuropeo. Para la fase permanente, los Gobiernos estudiarán un mecanismo de apoyo común.

7) Afectará a unos 300 bancos de la zona euro (aproximadamente el 80% del volumen total de capital bancario): los que operan en varios países y los que el BCE supervisará directamente.

Además de una batalla por la supremacía germánica de la Europa unida, en este acto de la tragicomedia que supone la construcción europea, se han enfrentado dos poderes institucionales, el Consejo, es decir, los jefes de Gobierno de los Estados y el Parlamento. De momento es evidente que son las naciones las que siguen marcando el paso de las reformas, pero es evidente que los representantes directos de la soberanía popular europea en esta última legislatura, al amparo de las atribuciones reforzadas que les concede el Tratado de Lisboa, se han empoderado y han plantado cara al Consejo así como a la Comisión Europea. Y esto no es más que un avance de lo que viene. El 25 de mayo los europeos votamos una Eurocámara que elegirá, salvo que los jefes de Gobierno decidan saltarse a la torera la decisión democrática de los ciudadanos de los 28 Estados miembros, cosa que no preveo, al próximo presidente de la Comisión Europea y posteriormente a todos y cada uno de su comisarios. Nacerá, por tanto, ese Parlamento y esa Comisión tendrán mayor legitimidad para contrarrestar el peso omnímodo del Consejo en estos años de la crisis. Merkel lo sabe y por eso está tratando de pisar el acelerador ante lo que puede ser una verdadera rebelión contra sus decisiones.

Pero la reflexión de fondo que quería dejaros tiene más que ver con la necesidad y urgencia de avanzar en la armonización fiscal en Europa que en el progreso que se ha producido en Bruselas entorno a la Unión Bancaria. El euro ha sido el mejor aliado de Alemania para realizar un perverso juego entre sus exportaciones a los demás miembros de la UE y cederles crédito para que pudieran comprar sus productos. Ese vaso comunicante en la balanza de pagos, entre la de cuenta corriente y la de cuenta de capital, les ha permitido no solo afianzar su liderazgo comercial, sino ser la única economía que no se ha visto brutalmente sacudida por el desempleo y que, para colmo, ha reducido su endeudamiento hasta niveles mínimos cuando venían de las mayores tasas de su historia fruto de la reunificación y el alto coste de inversiones que supuso en la Alemania del Este. El euro, pues, ahora lo comprobamos sin lugar a dudas es un excelente invento alemán para los alemanes. Lo cual no quiere decir que no lo sea o pueda ser para el resto de los europeos. Y sin duda ese es el punto crítico, la evolución de las políticas económicas europeas una vez de vaya consolidando la Unión Bancaria ahora esbozada. La única fórmula que les queda a los gobiernos para tratar de paliar sus déficits de competitividad, una vez que la devaluación monetaria no es posible, es la herramienta fiscal. Con ella vienen jugando unos y otros para hacerse dumping en un espacio que debería armonizar los tributos fundamentales. Ahora resulta más trascendental que nunca buscar un reequilibrio entre ricos y pobres de la Unión más allá de situaciones macroeconómicas de cada uno de los Estados. Se requiere una política fiscal que salte fronteras y busque el fomento del empleo y que redistribuya la riqueza. Todo lo demás seguirá siendo un modelo hegemónico de unos sobre otros, de los países del Norte sobre los del Sur, de los ricos sobre los pobres, en el fondo una Europa basada cada día más en las desigualdades.


The internationalization of domestic capital

Posted by on 20/03/14

First of all, for talking about the internationalization of domestic capital we should speak about it, about its existence and its degree of development. Even more, about the culture of domestic capital. We must speak about all these in order to have something to internationalize.

The weak capitalization, the acute lack of funding and the atomization of Romanian business is already an axiom and all these generates poor management, outdated technology, lack of money needed for innovation process, rudimentary distribution and supply channels, nonexistent or inefficient promoting, high flow of personnel etc. The Romanian business environment doesn’t have a coherent and vigorous voice to represent its interests in relation to official institutions and large corporations.

Each of these vulnerabilities deserves and requires an analysis for itself, but their existence is a reality and together they characterize the domestic capital at this moment.

Further, as an exponent of domestic capital, we will refer to SMEs because the large enterprises are in almost all cases a) branches or subsidiaries of multinational companies, they pursue their own development policies imposed by the mother-company, or b) companies owned by the Romanian State where the discussion about internationalization becomes superfluous.

So, we will stick to the much-discussed, both blamed and praised SMEs. I wanted to write eternal, but thinking how quickly they disappear, I changed my mind.

What SMEs are those who actually generate value? According to indicators, the SMEs that generate the greatest added value are the medium-sized enterprises. This easily reveals a future strategy dedicated to increasing the SMEs segment as a whole: supporting the medium-sized enterprises in order to help them enter into the large segment, meanwhile the smaller ones will be helped to enter into the middle segment. Thus we’ll grow the entire segment.

Obviously, we have not brought into discussion the big ones, but the reason is quite simple. They do not exist.

Thus, if we want to internationalize the domestic capital, which one do we mean? The only option remains the medium-sized enterprises.

What does the “internationalization of capital” really mean?

The internationalization of a company capital represents its will to engage in foreign market battles, assuming both the major benefits and risks resulting from this decision.

True, if this trend becomes present in the broader framework of the economy, the “act of courage” won’t be only theirs. It becomes the one of the overall economy. Then we could talk about the internationalization of domestic capital or of the Romanian economy – a holistic approach.

Of all six forms of internationalization presented in theory and practice (export, turnkey projects, licensing, franchising, joint ventures and wholly owned subsidiaries) the export is the favourite one, especially at this stage of development of the Romanian economy.

A second candidate, with a good chance of success especially on the East and the former Soviet republics market, is the joint ventures. The capital structure of the host countries, the legal and political constraints and the economic culture of the respective countries enhance this solution as one with great chances of success.

Turning to exports, it’s important to note that most companies have started or are beginning their global expansion through exports. Subsequently, if they find that the customer market is sufficiently promising, they develop wholly owned subsidiaries, thus making direct investment (Greenfield or Brownfield investment) or portfolio investment. Obviously, with the profit obtained through export.

What is the framework that should gain the interest of Romanian midsized companies to internationalize, even starting from exports?

There are several major coordinates: the development level, the stability or risk exposure, the capitalization through financing, information and the institutional support.

The internationalization of capital or the company is a development stage in its existence. It represents the moment when the company had a fruitful domestic experience and feels it has to stretch its wings, feels a need for oxygen. Its domestic market segment is no longer enough. It sees, understands and pursues the benefits of internationalization. It’s thriving.

Clearly this is not the state of various Romanian companies that these years are struggling to survive, not to thrive.

Therefore it is necessary to bring them in the state they wish this internationalization.

When a company decides to start the battle on other markets, it assumes a variety of risks: commercial, industrial, political ones etc. All these risks will be hovering over the company like an uncertainty cloud. This is actually one of this process’ major challenges.

In order to be able to take them, it is necessary that the company’s national economic environment (in this case the Romanian one) should not to be marked by major risks and uncertainties.

It is almost impossible for a company to accept simultaneously a risky investment environment both internally and externally.

Any internationalization process involves significant costs: for additional qualified personnel, market research, analyzing, making contacts, stocks additional purchases, distribution, storage, communications, and the cost of commercial loans.

All these costs have to be financed in decent conditions for companies; otherwise they become an insurmountable barrier and the internationalization remains just intent.

A domestic capital, like the frail Romanian one, has no chance to reach the international stage if it doesn’t receive relevant and timely institutional support and quality information.

This is one of the reasons I plead for the establishment of a Ministry of Foreign Trade, which includes within it a Research Institute for foreign trade, a strong and well financed one.

A fan-type system of Romanian Bilateral Chambers closely connected with the Ministry of Foreign Trade and the Romanian embassies, which will provide flexibility and better penetration of the external economic environment.

The Ministry should have operational structures in every Romanian embassy in the world, with extremely well defined, tracked, measured and monitored objectives and tasks.

Clearly this external system must be perfectly synchronized with internal systems: producers, importers or exporters associations, SME associations, other bilateral chambers of commerce, business organizations, Romanian business forums, regional chambers of commerce, etc.

This plan may seem very broad and too ambitious, but is the only who will ever work.

The system that will help the Romanian capital to get out , at open stage will be one with a holistic and integrative approach, but with customized solutions for each company. It will also be the most efficient in terms of costs and results optimization.

There are no miracles in economics. There is only vision and continuous action. An action that relates to the infinity of little things to be made and continuously improved, things that will change the life of the economic and social body and the entire vision.

In conclusion, in order to talk about the internationalization of Romanian capital we first must create a culture of this capital, of entrepreneurship. Then we must support the SMEs to become prosperous and “thirsty” for large horizons. We must provide them a stable environment, to create the conditions to be funded and to offer them an integrated system for support.

A system that will help them to get out in the world, to become prosperous, to repatriate their profits, to have access to modern management, to invest in innovation and to be able to pay the salaries of highly skilled employees, to increase the number of jobs, to buy technology to create Romanian brands etc.

The internationalization of domestic capital becomes a way of getting out of underdevelopment and poverty.


The lost generation? Not really…

Posted by on 18/03/14
Guest blogpost by Soulaima Gourani is a member of Europe’s “40 under 40″ club of thinkers, a member of the “Nordic Thinkers 20″, an author and blogger (full profile on LinkedIn). Youth unemployment remains a major issue in most EU countries. Eurostat estimates that 26.231 million men and women were unemployed in January 2014. It’s [...]

Nout Wellink: The euro is reshaping Europe

Posted by on 14/03/14

The euro is reshaping Europe. It is a costly, painful exercise. We should have approached it in a different way. But the euro is forcing several countries in Europe to address problems which otherwise would have taken decades to be resolved. The euro is forcing through what governments can’t, such as labour market reform.”
– Nout Wellink, former president of the Dutch central bank (1997-2011), non-executive board member of the Bank of China (October 2012 – present), interview in Maarten!, a Dutch magazine, February-April 2014 edition, pp. 56-64 (quote taken from p. 63).

Dutch original (including the interviewer’s question):
Maarten!: “… Maar stelt u zich voor: ik ben Geert Wilders, en u moet mij uitleggen waarom de euro een voordelige zaak is.”
Wellink: “The euro is reshaping Europe. Het is een kostbare, pijnlijke exercitie. We hadden het anders moeten doen, maar onder de druk van de euro wordt een aantal landen in Europa zeer hardhandig gedwongen om problemen op te lossen waar ze anders decennia over hadden gedaan. De euro dwingt af wat overheden niet kunnen afdwingen, zoals hervormingen van de arbeidsmarkt.”
– Maarten van Rossem en Alies Pegtel, ‘Je doet het altijd fout’, Maarten!, februari-april 2014, pp. 56-64, citaat ontleend aan p. 63.

Philippe Legrain: ‘The EU has made disastrous policy mistakes’

Posted by on 05/03/14
By Joop Hazenberg One of the last interviews for Next Europe is with Philippe Legrain, a British economist who worked for BEPA – the Commission’s own think-tank – until this year. In his book Aftershock, he mentions four big dangers to the world (economy): financial collapse, debt crises, protectionism and climate change. We are three years on since the book was published, but the dangers are still present: ‘The eurozone is not out of the woods by any means,' Legrain says.

The world’s economic locomotive chooses stagnation

Posted by on 02/03/14
By Eric Grover Economic stagnation is a choice, a choice America and much of Europe, alas, are making. For twenty years the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal have produced an Index of Economic Freedom. Economically-freer countries enjoy more robust growth and greater prosperity, it shows. That’s why it is time for a policy course correction, foremost in Washington, but also in London, Paris, Rome or Madrid.

Mc Kinsey report highlights some of the problems behind youth unemployment

Posted by on 26/02/14

“In Europe, 74 percent of education providers were confident that their graduates were prepared for work, but only 38 percent of youth and 35 percent of employers agreed” states the Mc Kinsey report, which was released Mid-January 2014. This statement, based on a meticulous research carried out toward 5,300 youth, 2,600 employers, and 700 post-secondary education providers across 8 countries, brings to light the difference of perspectives and the lack of clear understanding among Education providers on the reality of the situation for young people willing to enter the job market.

This research reminds us that apart from the lack of job offers, another key issue is the existing skills mismatch between what Education providers are providing and the actual needs of the companies. These and other factors ended up in 5.6 million young people being unemployed in Europe.

AEGEE-Europe is worried to see that the situation for young people is still blocked and leaves so many young job seekers really unmotivated, desperate to find a job that not only enables them to pay their rent, but also fulfills their expectations. On that matter, we can only keep on calling Higher Education institutions to rethink their learning models and to cooperate further with companies in order to understand, and then translate in their programs, the skills that are being asked for on the job market.

AEGEE-Europe also wants to stress the crucial role of Non-Formal Education players in that field, since skills considered as crucial from employers, such as “spoken communication and work ethic” to quote the Mc Kinsey’s report, are exactly those that volunteers in youth organisations get to experience and develop. Moreover, not only do Youth Organisations provide soft skills needed by the job market, but they give also valuable work experience, which often job applicants lack. For this reason, AEGEE-Europe can only repeat the need for volunteers’ engagement and experiences to be recognised by key players, such as Educational centres (with ECTS compensations), Employers (by taking seriously into account volunteers’ experience) and public institutions (through validation of Non-Formal Education competences).

Tasa Robin Hood

Posted by on 18/02/14

Por Àngela Corbalán, Jefa de Comunicación de la Oficina de Oxfam ante la UE

Hoy lanzamos un cortometraje sobre la tasa “Robin Hood”, dirigido por el director de Harry Potter David Yates. Cuenta con caras conocidas como la del recientemente galardonado con un Premio Goya Javier Cámara, así como también Clémence Poesy, Bill Nighy, Heike Makatsch y Andrew Lincoln.

El corto da una perspectiva cómica de la tasa a las transacciones financieras (TTF), en clave futurista. De todas formas, lo que tienen entre manos ahora mismo once países europeos, entre ellos España, es cosa seria. Con Francia y Alemania a la cabeza, este grupo de países pioneros están a punto de dar el salto e implementar este impuesto a los bancos este mismo año. Una diminuta tasa podría mobilizar hasta 37,000 millones de euros al año.

Y aquí está el debate: ¿qué se debería hacer con el dinero recaudado?

Desde Oxfam, y junto a centenares de organizaciones de la sociedad civil en 25 países, economistas de renombre y políticos, estamos mandado un mensaje claro a nuestros gobiernos: el dinero de la tasa debería destinarse a luchar contra la pobreza en Europa y en los países pobres, y a combatir el cambio climático que nos amenaza ya a todos.

Se trata de justica social. Hacer pagar al sector financiero por el caos económico en el que ha sumergido a Europa desde hace ya más de cinco años.

Con cerca de un cuarto de los europeos viviendo bajo el umbral de la pobreza, la tasa Robin Hood es una alternativa evidente a las políticas de austeridad. Estas medidas aplicadas en varios países europeos están echando por la borda años y años de protección social que permitía que la desigualdad entre ricos y pobres no se disparara.

Asimismo, la crisis económica global ha dejado un agujero de 65.000 millones de dólares en los presupuestos de los países en vías de desarrollo. Y justamente, en vez de aumentar, los compromisos de los países ricos de apoyar a las naciones más pobres se están desmoronando. 19 países de la Unión Europea, entre ellos España, han recortado o congelado la ayuda europea dirigida a los países pobres, agrandando la brecha económica para alcanzar los Objetivos de Desarrollo del Milenio en 2015 hasta los 36.000 millones de euros.

Justamente con esta cifra, que prácticamente equivale al 5% de los ingresos que se prevén recaudar gracias a la aplicación de la TTF en los 11 países de la UE, se podrían contratar un millón de enfermeras más en África.

En fin. Esperemos que nuestros líderes entren en razón y conviertan este impuesto a los bancos en una auténtica tasa “Robin Hood”.

The German Federal Constitutional Court As Part of a New European Judicial Network?

Posted by on 16/02/14

After 57 years of shouting from the sidelines, last week the Bundesverfassungsgericht (German Federal Constitutional Court; GFCC) has for the first time chosen to take part in the game.

By Christina Eckes

For the first time ever, the GFCC referred a preliminary question to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The occasion was the ECB case, in which the GFCC was asked to decide on the constitutionality of the European Central Bank´s much debated bond buying scheme. By referring the case, the GFCC may have chosen an easy way out; yet, it has also chosen the most legitimate way of dealing with the ECB case. The CJEU is better placed to defend a judicial ruling on whether or not an EU institution has overstepped its mandate than any national court could be.

Why now?

At several earlier occasions (including a case concerning the European Stability Mechanism (ESM)), the GFCC ought to have referred preliminary questions to the CJEU, but did not. So, why now? What is so special about the ECB case?

The case combines four Verfassungsbeschwerden (constitutional complaints) and an Organstreitverfahren (dispute between organs of the state), all aimed either directly against the ECB’s announced Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT) bond-buying scheme or indirectly against the omissions of the German government and parliament to stop this scheme. The ECB case is significant for several reasons.

Firstly, the judicial challenge has direct and far-reaching economic consequences. Already the announcement of a preliminary reference has given rise to speculations that the ECB, which has so far not implemented the scheme, will not do so in view of the case pending before the CJEU. This has led to an uncertainty, which may undermine the credibility of the OMT programme and make markets more volatile.

Secondly, this is the first time that the GFCC is confronted with a direct challenge against an act of an EU institution. The closest so far has been the case of Honeywell in 2010. In this case, the GFCC was in essence asked to rule on the constitutionality of a decision of the CJEU. Here, the GFCC accepted as a matter of principle that it would check whether the CJEU is overstepping its mandate. At the same time, it showed great deference to the EU judiciary and reduced that control to whether there was a manifest violation. Highly relevant for the present discussion, the GFCC further made clear in Honeywell that it would not rule on whether an act of the (other) EU institutions goes beyond their mandate without giving the CJEU the opportunity, in a preliminary ruling, to give its interpretation of the matter. This is what it now did in the ECB case.

Thirdly, if the GFCC had rendered a negative ruling on the OMT scheme, this would have had broader political consequences. It would have set a precedence for national constitutional or supreme courts to rein in an EU institution. In the case of Germany, this would likely add fuel to the flames of the allegations of German economic imperialism.


Reconciliatory on Form but Firm on Substance

While referring for the first time a question to the CJEU, the GFCC also stated clearly how it sees the case – clearer than what is usual in this context. The German Court set out important reasons why it assumes that the OMT scheme exceeds the ECB’s monetary policy mandate and thus infringes the sovereignty of the Member States, as well as that it violates the prohibition of monetary financing, which is a key pillar of the architecture of the EMU (just like the no-bailout clause). At the same time, it threw the CJEU a lifeline by setting out that a restrictive interpretation of the scheme could potentially achieve conformity with EU law.


Judicial Discourse in an Interlocking Legal Environment

The two core functions of the judiciary are to settle disputes in an authoritative manner and to counterbalance the other branches of power. In an increasingly interlocked European legal order, both national and EU law influence each other. This leads to direct or indirect judicial challenges of acts that originate outside of the constitutional framework in which the respective court is established. It also makes it particularly important for courts to establish an authority that carries beyond the national legal borders. One way of reinforcing judicial authority beyond borders is participating in a discourse with judicial bodies established on a different constitutional basis. This entails recognizing the authority of these bodies. It may also lead to a greater recognition of one’s own judicial authority.


The Advantages of Playing by the EU Rules of the Game

With its reference the GFCC engaged with the CJEU under the EU rules of the game. This should be applauded for many reasons. It contributes to the uniform interpretation of EU law. It will also earn the GFCC greater respect not only from the CJEU but also from other national constitutional and supreme courts that have played by EU rules for many years. It further allows the GFCC to shape the questions that the CJEU is called to consider.

It can hence influence the framing of the issue for the judicial and public debate beyond Germany. Finally, the GFCC has with its reference found its place as part of the EU judiciary and rejected all budding ideas of German exceptionalism within the EU. Amidst growing parochialism and nationalism within the EU this is politically very important. However, the GFCC also managed to pass the buck and leave the politically charged decision to the CJEU, which may be equally problematic in a nationalist climate. The CJEU may still duck the responsibility of a decision on the merits by declaring the OMT scheme nothing more than an announcement without legal effect.


A New European Judiciary?

In an increasingly interlocking European legal order, courts should move on from the trench warfare of either pushing an integrationist agenda (CJEU) or defending national sovereignty (GFCC) to reach the next level of maturity as one European judicial network and focus on the core function of any judiciary: controlling the exercise of executive power.

The judicial battles over the legal instruments to contain the Euro crisis may be the first context in which this happens. Watch this space. On 18 March 2014, the GFCC will rule on two other issues separated from the ECB case: the establishment of the ESM and the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union (Fiscal Compact).


Dr. Christina Eckes is associate professor in EU law at the University of Amsterdam. Her personal page can be accessed here.

Forecast for EC economic forecasts: A threefold error

Posted by on 11/02/14
At the end of this month, the European Commission will present its winter economic forecasts. We could expect that they will continue with its cautiously optimistic tone from the last autumn: “Eurozone is slowly stabilising, economic recovery is on the way, all we need is to continue the “sound economic and fiscal policies” and “necessary [...]

La Europa corrupta: 120.000 millones de euros al año

Posted by on 10/02/14

Me pregunto qué sistema es este que obliga a salvajes recortes de protección social para aquellos que pagan y cotizan a sus haciendas y seguridades sociales durante toda su vida y no es capaz de erradicar la lacra de la corrupción entre sus dirigentes. Se reducen becas, se recortan prestaciones sanitarias,  se desahucian familias y se congelan pensiones mientras la prolija actividad de los corruptos nos supone anualmente la increíble cantidad de 120.000 millones de euros al año, una cifra similar al presupuesto anual de la UE. Mejor no sumarle la cuantía estimada de fraude fiscal que se registra en los Estados o miembros e incluso el papel de paraísos fiscales que algunos de ellos juegan. Porque si nos diera un día por hacer la cuenta de lo que entre unas cosas y otras se defrauda al Estado del Bienestar caeríamos en la realidad de quiénes son los verdaderos depredadores de nuestro gran ecosistema de convivencia solidaria y pacífica.

La corrupción sigue siendo un reto para Europa y lo que es más grave, aunque no a todos por igual, afecta a todos los Estados miembros. La pasada semana la comisaria de Asuntos de Interior, la sueca Cecilia Malmström presentó el primer Informe sobre la lucha contra la corrupción en la UE. Con una conclusión rotunda: los Estados miembros han adoptado muchas iniciativas en estos últimos años, pero los resultados son desiguales y debe hacerse más para prevenir y castigar la corrupción.


El Informe muestra que la naturaleza y el nivel de corrupción, así como la eficacia de las medidas adoptadas para combatirla, varían de un Estado miembro a otro. También pone de manifiesto que la corrupción merece mayor atención en todos los Estados miembros. Y así lo indican los resultados de una encuesta Eurobarómetro sobre la actitud de los europeos en relación con la corrupción. La encuesta muestra que tres cuartas partes de los europeos (76 %) creen que la corrupción está muy extendida, y más de la mitad (56 %) cree que el nivel de corrupción en su país ha aumentado durante los tres últimos años. Uno de cada doce europeos (8 %) afirma que ha vivido o presenciado un caso de corrupción en el último año. La gran pregunta es, ¿cuántos de ellos lo han denunciado? Porque no olvidemos que no hay corruptos sin corruptores

“La corrupción mina la confianza de los ciudadanos en las instituciones democráticas y en el Estado de Derecho, daña la economía europea y priva a los Estados de unos ingresos fiscales muy necesario”, decía Malmström poniendo simplemente de manifiesto lo obvio. Se supone que la UE pretende servir de ejemplo de actitudes democráticas y de fiscalización de la vida pública en el mundo, esa es una de nuestras principales señas de identidad y, sin embargo, no somos capaces de controlar efectivamente el correcto uso de los recursos de todos. Algo falla en esencia, como si el exceso de peso y poder de la tecnócrata burocracia de los Estados y de Bruselas fuera cómplice de los múltiples intereses lucrativos ilegales que se mueven en el continente. Y en esta situación, ¿qué político es capaz de poner la cara con dignidad para pedir el voto en las cercanas ya elecciones europeas?

Respecto a España la Comisión Europea señala que aunque ya existe en gran medida un marco jurídico de lucha contra la corrupción, y la legislación se ha aplicado con buenos resultados en materia de investigación de las prácticas corruptas, el informe sigue mostrando”una serie de insuficiencias”, eufemismo tecnócrata, pues, pese a no establecer una clasificación de corruptos, el informe implícitamente sitúa a España entre los Estados con más corrupción. Un reto especial lo constituye la corrupción política y los deficientes controles y equilibrios, especialmente en lo relativo al gasto público y a los mecanismos de control a escala autonómica y local. En su informe la Comisión Europea sugiere desarrollar estrategias de lucha contra la corrupción adaptadas a las necesidades de las administraciones autonómica y local, proseguir con las reformas en curso y la aplicación de las nuevas normas en lo tocante a la financiación de los partidos políticos, e instaurar códigos generales de conducta para los cargos electos, con instrumentos adecuados de responsabilización. La Comisión también propone seguir insistiendo en la lucha contra las irregularidades que se producen en los procedimientos de contratación pública a escala autonómica y local.

Tal vez sólo estemos reescribiendo una página de nuestra historia. Aquella que bajo la grandeza de las conquistas de las legiones romanas y de su derecho oculta una realidad de corrupción de la vida pública, basada en tráfico de influencias, amiguismo, sobornos y extorsiones generalizadas. Roma instituyó la corrupción como parte intrínseca de su forma de Gobierno, consagrando así la injusticia hacia su pueblo gobernado. Se supone que 2000 años después nuestro contrato social debería haber evolucionado hacia formas de gobierno y de administración pública más éticas y justas. Si no somos capaces de demostrarnos, los unos a los otros, gobernadores y ciudadanos, que la limpieza de actos es la base de nuestro sistema, perderemos la confianza en nosotros mismos, cuestionaremos nuestras instituciones y como ya sucediera al imperio romano, seremos presa fácil de bárbaros extrafronteras, de los que por desgracia también hoy tenemos claros ejemplos que vienen del Este.