The European sovereign debt crisis has exposed the institutional weaknesses in the design of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and brought to the fore the need for a greater economic and fiscal integration among the countries that compose the euro area. Some reforms have already been agreed upon and others are on the way, but the still looming risk of a break-up of the eurozone (EZ) has lead economists and politicians to press for the establishment of a fiscal union among participating countries, though resistance is admittedly far stronger than acquiescence, especially in the core member States which are generally credited with a better record on the management of their public finances. In this connection, eurobond of different sorts have been proposed by several quarters (economists, finance ministers of EZ countries, financial markets professionals etc.), partly as a way out of the sovereign debt crisis that has been hitting the periphery of the eurozone since 2010, partly as a possible first step towards the creation of a genuine fiscal union among the euro countries. The aim of this paper is to illustrate and comment on the major proposals, focusing on the different, and not always reconcilable, objectives they pursue. Some are intended to create a liquid and safe euro-denominated asset available in large supply to banks for regulatory purposes, so as to sever the vicious links between their balance sheets and their respective sovereign’s finances and help resume the smooth functioning of the monetary policy transmission mechanism; others instead are aimed at reducing the unsustainable burden of public debt for some EZ countries, gradually driving down the ratio of a country’s public debt to its GDP to be more in line with the Maastricht ceiling of 60 per cent; still others are meant to institutionalize some ex post solidarity among EZ countries, while at the same time improving fiscal discipline and establishing more effective enforcement mechanisms, possibly with the aid of fiscal councils or independent supranational agencies. Our analysis highlights the wide variety of dimensions that have to be taken into account when dealing with the common issuance of public debt and testifies to the truth of the saying that the devil is often in the (institutional) details!
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