The EU Should Issue Perpetual Bonds
The disruption in the European Union caused by the COVID-19 pandemic should be temporary, but only if EU leaders take the extraordinary measures needed to avoid long-term damage. Fortunately, there is an easy, fast and low-cost way to finance the proposed €1 trillion European Recovery Fund.
NEW YORK – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced that Europe will need about €1 trillion ($1.1 trillion) to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. This money could be used to establish a European Recovery Fund. But where will the money come from?
I propose that the European Union should raise the money needed for the Recovery Fund by selling “perpetual bonds,” on which the principal does not have to be repaid (although they can be repurchased or redeemed at the issuer’s discretion). Authorizing this issue should be the first priority for the forthcoming European Council summit on April 23.
It would, of course, be unprecedented for the EU to issue perpetual bonds, especially in such a large amount. But other governments have relied on perpetual bonds in the past. The best-known example is Britain, which used consolidated bonds (Consols) to finance the Napoleonic Wars and war bonds to finance World War I. These bond issues were traded in London until 2015, when both were redeemed. In the 1870s, the US Congress authorized the Treasury to issue Consols to consolidate already existing bonds, and they were issued in subsequent years.