The Eurozone’s Agenda in 2013

EU leaders concluded 2012 with a landmark agreement that places all eurozone banks under a single supervisor. But they have clearly refused, at least for now, to hold a serious discussion about deeper integration, without which the euro crisis cannot be overcome.

PARIS – European Union leaders concluded 2012 with a landmark agreement that places all eurozone banks under a single supervisor. But the difficult negotiations that led to the agreement eclipsed European Council President Herman Van Rompuy’s recent report, Towards a Genuine Economic and Monetary Union, which calls for unity far beyond a banking union. Although “no door was closed,” in the words of European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, EU leaders have clearly refused, at least for now, to hold a serious discussion about deeper integration.

Van Rompuy’s report raises a fundamental question: What factors are preventing the eurozone from functioning as everyone would wish? Answering this question requires, first and foremost, comparing the dynamics at play during the euro’s first decade, 1999-2009, when the eurozone ostensibly performed well, with those of the last three years, which have been marred by crisis.

At first, the eurozone seemed to function like a true currency union: capital-market integration was accelerated; cross-border activity increased; and the per capita income gap between member countries decreased. But, unlike in a complete currency union, such as that of the United States, eurozone members retained full financial sovereignty, meaning that they controlled all of the levers of macroeconomic policy.

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