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The future of the British EU membership has become one of the most pressing concerns for the EU. The EU-British relationship has always been one of special character but a number of recent developments have led to a ‘Brexit’ gaining momentum. Only the UK itself will be able to rationalise the domestic debate on EU membership. Economically, Britain and the EU are inextricably linked. Realistic estimates predict losses in the range of 1 to 3% of British GDP in case of a Brexit. Likewise, the Single Market would shrink by 15%.
On Wednesday the Commission's new President Jean-Claude Juncker unveiled the next European Commission. As a new element, Juncker has established an intermediate level of six Vice-Presidents. This new formation of the college of Commissioners could enhance governance efficiency but could also cause rivalries over matters of competence.
In recent years, the European Union has lost its appeal as the globally most important region for foreign direct investment (FDI). In 2013, China alone received more FDI inflows than all EU countries together. Apart from the rising importance of emerging markets, the economic crisis in Europe has reduced investment incentives for companies from abroad. However, especially in Europe low FDI stocks can also be linked to competitiveness deficits. Some EU countries have not received substantial FDI flows even before the crisis and would benefit substantially by attracting more investments.
The annual Brussels rentrée is fast approaching. Late August will see the beginning of a busy schedule, promising eventful weeks and months to come. Expected events like summits, AQR and EBA stress tests will meet with political and geostrategic risks. Many observers predict a stormy autumn – are they right?
Sub-sovereign bonds are a segment that has attracted little attention to date. Bonds are the dominant form of funding for Germany's Länder, though, and they also play an important role for the regions in Spain. While the Länder benefit from Germany’s excellent sovereign rating, only those Spanish regions not forced to request financial assistance from the central government at the height of the debt crisis have recently been able to obtain financing via the capital market. In France the issuance by the municipalities is likely to increase due to the newly established Agence France Locale. A local authority finance agency is also in the process of being introduced in the United Kingdom. The importance of the sub-sovereign bond market crucially depends on country-specific institutional arrangements.
The Balance-of-Payments Facility of the European Union is a medium-term financial assistance mechanism for non-euro area member states suffering from a balance-of-payments crisis. This Research Briefing reviews current challenges in the ongoing negotiations between the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council on a recent legislative proposal which aims to streamline the facility with the current institutional framework of the ESM. Still, there is a particular need for reconciliation regarding the facility's volume, economic conditionality and the future role of the IMF.
Migration patterns within the eurozone have changed fundamentally. While prior to the crisis many citizens from Central and Eastern European EU countries migrated to Spain and other peripheral countries, the westward migration is now primarily directed to the core. The crisis has also triggered increasing migration from the periphery to the core. Eurozone migration acts as a sensible adjustment mechanism in the labour markets. In Germany it contributes to the reduction of bottlenecks in the market for qualified labour, whereas in the GIPS it functions like a safety value. Migration also fosters growth in the host countries, while the impact on the GIPS is ambiguous. Emigration reduces persistent structural unemployment especially in problem sectors like construction. It also helps to rein in public spending. However, the huge swing in the migration balance, especially in Spain, weighs on domestic demand. Higher remittances would be helpful to mitigate the shock from the outflow of purchasing power. While fears of a brain drain are overstated, lasting migration deficits would accelerate population ageing in the periphery.
During its 6-month EU Council presidency, Italy wants to launch a renewed reform of the Stability and Growth Pact. This will also be an issue on this week’s European Council von 26 and 27 April. The extent of the reform is not clear yet – but it is clear that a softening of the just revised fiscal rules is anticipated.
The adoption of the proposal to extend the Savings Taxation Directive is another important stepping-stone towards comprehensive, universal automatic exchange of information at the EU level. The current schedule is very optimistic. But given the international developments over the past year it may be assumed that nothing will be able to stop the march of automatic exchange of information even beyond the EU's borders on a medium-term horizon. It remains to be seen to what extent it will actually be possible to coordinate the multitude of international initiatives with one another and ensure adequate data protection.
In mainland Europe, the financial position of many institutions for occupational retirement provision (IORPs), which offer defined benefit pension plans, has markedly improved in recent years. Nonetheless, the market conditions facing pension funds remain tough. The main challenges here are the persistently low yields on high-quality bonds and the beneficiaries' rising life expectancy. New regulatory requirements, such as those contained in the recently published draft revision of the EU Directive on Institutions for Occupational Retirement Provision ('IORP II'), are also likely to pose a challenge for many IORPs.