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  • European Spring: Why Our Economies and Politics are in a Mess – and How to Put Them Right

    Britain and the rest of Europe are in a mess. Our economies are failing to deliver higher living standards for most people – and many have lost faith in politicians’ ability to deliver a brighter future, with support for parties like UKIP soaring. Are stagnation, decline and disillusionment inevitable?

    European Spring Front cover banner
  • Aftershock: Reshaping the World Economy After the Crisis — out now

    The financial crisis brought the world to the brink of economic breakdown. But now bankers’ bonuses are back, house prices are rising again and politicians promise recovery – all this while unemployment remains high, debts mount, frictions with China grow and the planet overheats.
    Is this really sustainable – or do we need to change course?

    Aftershock
  • Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them

    Immigration divides our globalising world like no other issue. We are being swamped by bogus asylum-seekers and infiltrated by terrorists, our jobs stolen, our benefit system abused, our way of life destroyed – or so we are told. Why are ever-rising numbers of people from poor countries arriving in Europe, North America and Australasia? Can we keep them out? Should we even be trying?

    Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them

European Spring is reviewed as part of the lead review in this week’s Economist.

The Economist writes:

Philippe Legrain, who once worked for The Economist, was another close observer of the euro crisis, as an economic adviser to the European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso. His conclusions are similar to Mr Pisani-Ferry’s, if more stridently expressed. He is particularly good on (and particularly scathing about) the shortcomings of his own institution and the ECB. He is not popular in Brussels or Frankfurt.

Mr Legrain argues that Europe should have tackled its banks’ problems much sooner than mid-2012, when it decided to create a (still incomplete) banking union. A big reason why America has recently grown faster than Europe is that it did more to sort out its banks in 2008-09. Mr Legrain is also right to criticise the ECB for its half-hearted bond purchases before July 2012, when it finally emerged as a proper lender of last resort. Only in the second part of his book, when he moves into broader topics such as education, innovation, climate change and democracy, culminating in his call for a “European spring”, are his arguments sometimes less persuasive.

Both authors agree that the aftermath of the crisis is an unsatisfactory one that may not endure. Even if markets do not turn sour again, most of Europe seems stuck with low growth, high unemployment (especially for young people) and a horrible debt burden. The risk of a “lost decade” similar to Japan’s in the 1990s is worryingly high. Worst of all is the broad disillusion of voters with the entire European project, which will be expressed in this month’s European elections through big gains for populist and extremist parties….

What is striking is how much the authors agree about the failings of the EU and the euro, which is stuck in a half-completed house. Where they differ is in the solutions they propose.Europhiles want deeper integration and more centralised powers. That was proposed this spring by the German-led Glienicker group and by the French-led Eiffel Europe group. It is also backed by Loukas Tsoukalis, a Greek academic, in an essay, “The Unhappy State of the Union”, published by London-based Policy Network.

Yet few voters feel warmly about ever closer union; many would agree with Mr Bootle that this aspiration of the original Treaty of Rome should be formally ditched. Nor do many welcome ever greater intrusion by Brussels and Frankfurt into domestic politics. A more plausible idea, backed by Mr Legrain, is to restore greater freedom to national governments but reinstate the principle that they will not be rescued by the centre if they get into trouble.

The biggest worry may stem from the perception that the crisis is over. This is likely to slow or even stop further reforms. If that happens, the EU and the euro will get into trouble again—and the outcome next time could be even worse.

John Peet, Europe Editor of The Economist, adds:

Philippe Legrain convincingly argues that euro-zone policymakers made several big mistakes: there was too much fiscal austerity, they were too slow in trying to mend the banks and the European Central Bank delayed for too long in becoming a lender of last resort. The euro may have survived, but the system remains unstable and Europe still needs a lot more reform if it is to prosper.

Posted 21 May 2014 in Blog, euro, Europe, European Spring

Fintan O’Toole has written an excellent piece about the injustice of the EU’s treatment of Ireland during the crisis and the need for Ireland to stand up to the EU. He quotes liberally from European Spring, which he describes as a “fine new book”.

Posted 21 May 2014 in Blog, euro, European Spring, Ireland, Irish Times
Posted 17 May 2014 in Blog, Die Tageszeitung, euro, European Spring, Germany
Posted 11 May 2014 in Blog, euro, European Spring, Portugal, Público
Posted 11 May 2014 in Blog, euro, European Spring, Finance

In today’s Sunday [Irish] Independent, Colm McCarthy reviews European Spring in his column. He concludes: “This book… is a spirited and readable account of the biggest policy failure to have afflicted the European project since its inception almost 60 years ago.” Thank you.

Posted 11 May 2014 in Blog, euro, European Spring, Ireland

I was interviewed about European Spring by Heidi Plougsgaard Jensen of the Danish newspaper, Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten. PDFs are here and here 

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European Spring was launched in Dublin on Tuesday in the magnificent Long Room of Trinity College Dublin. A huge thank you to Senator Sean Barratt for speaking, to Brian Lucey for organising, to Sam Vigne for selling books and to Anne-Marie Diffley and all her team for hosting us.

Ahead of the launch, I was interviewed by Nick Bullman on NewsTalk’s The Currency (4th May 2014 Part 1, 31 minutes in).

Sarah McCabe interviewed me for the Irish Independent , as did Jack Horgan Jones for thejournal.ie

My argument that Ireland got treated outrageously by EU institutions – in particular, by the ECB – led to interviews on NewsTalk’s Pat Kenny Show (7th May 2014 Part 2, 17 minutes in) and RTE’s News at One.

I was also debated the issue with the German ambassador to Ireland on 10 May on RTE Radio’s 1 The Business.

European Spring is available from Amazon.co.uk (in £) and Amazon.fr (in €)

Posted 08 May 2014 in Blog, euro, European Spring, Ireland

I was interviewed about European Spring on BBC World Service’s Business Daily by Manuela Saragosa this morning. It starts 7 minutes 40 seconds into the clip 

Posted 25 Apr 2014 in BBC Online, Blog, euro, Europe, European Spring

European Spring is also available in paperback from Amazon.co.uk for £12.99 and from Amazon.com for $14.99

Posted 24 Apr 2014 in Blog, European Spring

Like passengers on an up escalator, Britons and other Europeans for decades enjoyed seemingly effortless rises in living standards year after year. Expanding economies and swelling social spending lifted nearly everyone up. Each generation could look forward to much better lives than those of previous ones. Yet in recent years, this growth escalator has broken down.

It has been creaky for a while: since the turn of the century, productivity growth has been sluggish across most of Europe – and wage rises even slower. But piling on debt provided an artificial boost, while bubbly house prices and financial trickery blinded people to the risks.

Then the financial crisis and the panic in the eurozone threw a spanner in the works and the escalator went into reverse. The long slump and governments’ subsequent budget cuts have exposed the chasm between the fortunate – and sometimes undeserving – few who continue to thrive and the majority who are struggling. Many people have fallen far – not least the 26 million Europeans who are out of work, many of them for a long time. In Britain, real wages have fallen by nearly a tenth. A typical British household is no richer than a decade ago. Even the much-vaunted German escalator has stalled. The average German earns fractionally less than 15 years ago.

Read an exclusive extract from European Spring in the Independent

 

Posted 24 Apr 2014 in Blog, euro, Europe, European Spring, The Independent

“The primary cause of the crisis was the reckless lending of German and French banks (both directly and through local banks) to Spanish and Irish homeowners, Portuguese consumers and the Greek government. But by insisting that Greek, Irish, Portuguese and Spanish taxpayers pay in full for those banks’ mistakes, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government and its handmaidens in Brussels have systematically privileged the interests of German and French banks over those of euro zone citizens.

Germany, in particular, remains in denial about its banks’ bad loans. Loath to cede control over its stricken banks, Berlin has used its clout to eviscerate the euro zone’s banking union. Worse, the German government, together with the European Commission and the European Central Bank, wrongly blamed the euro zone crisis on fiscal profligacy across Southern Europe. This self-serving misdiagnosis has inflicted lasting economic and political damage.”

Read my piece in the international edition of the New York Times

Posted 24 Apr 2014 in Blog, euro, Europe, European Spring, New York Times

At the height of the euro zone debt crisis, with Portugal’s economy nearing collapse, the European Commission told the government in Lisbon that it had to slash wages if it was ever going to boost competitiveness and grow again.

Portuguese shoemakers – one of the economy’s main export sectors – steadfastly ignored the advice and found a way to bounce back while actually increasing workers’ pay.

It is just one of many examples Philippe Legrain, a former adviser to Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, cites in a new book that argues policymakers misdiagnosed the crisis and ended up prescribing the wrong medicine to resolve it.

He was an adviser from 2011 until resigning in March of this year, so was involved at some of the most critical moments.

“The Portuguese basically said, ‘We’re not going to do that’, and they went upmarket instead,” said Legrain, the author of “European Spring: Why our Economies and Politics are in a Mess”, which is published on April 24.

“They are now selling more expensive designer shoes and their exports are soaring – wages and employment have risen,” he said. “That shows in a nutshell how policy was misguided.”

Read Luke Baker’s Reuters piece on European Spring

Posted 24 Apr 2014 in Blog, euro, Europe, European Spring

Interviewed on CNBC’s Squawk Box on 16 April 2014

Posted 16 Apr 2014 in Blog, CNBC, Europe, Russia, Ukraine

Interviewed on CNBC’s Squawk Box on 16 April 2014

Posted 16 Apr 2014 in Blog, CNBC, euro, European Spring, Finance
Posted 16 Apr 2014 in Blog, CNBC, euro, Europe, European Spring
Posted 16 Apr 2014 in Blog, De Telegraaf, euro, Uncategorized

Last week I gave the keynote speech at “In the EU we (mis) trust”, an event organised by the European Cultural Foundation in Amsterdam. It is part of series of events to debate the New Pact for Europe, a joint project of various think-tanks to put forward proposals to the new European Commission president to reinvigorate the EU. A video of the event is here; my speech starts 40 minutes in.

Posted 14 Apr 2014 in Blog, Europe, European Spring

It is the duty of anyone who truly believes in Europe to not unquestioningly agree with whatever is decided in Brussels, but to say ‘no, this is not the kind of Europe that we want, we want a different kind of Europe, we want a better Europe and here is how we set out to do it’.

Posted 13 Apr 2014 in Blog, euro, Europe, European Spring