Polisblog
7. Februar 2024

nEUrds Newsletter – Your Guide To What’s Moving The Bubble: 3rd Edition

Written By Lukas Seelig, Janik Gast and Moritz Pohl

 

coming to you from Polis180’s “European Economic Policy” programme inviting you to subscribe for free by dropping us a line here!

 

Hello there and welcome back, curious minds and all-around Brussels enthusiasts!

 

As we embark on another whirlwind year, 2024 is already shaping up to be a roller coaster in the realms of European Economics and Policy. In this edition of nEUrds, we’re diving headfirst into the intricate tapestry of global and European events that are set to define the year.

From the heated political landscape, to the strategic maneuvers within the EU as leaders like Charles Michel set their sights on new horizons, we’re tracking every move. And let’s not forget the European Parliament’s busy schedule, tackling everything from geothermal energy to economic governance reforms. Each piece of this complex puzzle offers a glimpse into the potential shifts and trends that could reshape our economic and political narratives.

So, grab your coffee, settle in, and join us on this enlightening journey through the corridors of power and the bustling streets of European policy. Let’s unravel the stories, analyze the facts, and maybe, just maybe, predict the future. Welcome to the latest edition of nEUrds – your go-to source for all things European Economics and Policy in 2024!

 

2024 IN THE SPOTLIGHT: KEY EVENTS TO WATCH

written by Lukas Seelig 

 

Ursula’s Encore?

As Europe gears up for the 2024 elections, all eyes are on Ursula von der Leyen. Will she take the stage for a second act as the Commission President? The bets are on! Despite some discord with Council and state leaders last year, she’s shown her mettle, leading the EU through crises and championing common action in defense, health, and energy. Her policy surprises and diplomatic maneuvers, though controversial, hint at a leader ready for another round in the EU ring.

 

France Beckons Finance Firms

Meanwhile, France is rolling out the red carpet for foreign financial firms. Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire dropped a teaser earlier this week about a springtime bill to lure more financial players to Paris. Post-Brexit, France is eyeing the top spot in Europe’s financial league. It’s an ambitious play, but Le Maire is not one to shy away from a challenge.

 

Global Economic Checkpoints

Outside the EU, the Bank of Japan might shake up its monetary policy, potentially dropping yield curve control and negative interest rates. And Argentina? Well, rumors of dollarization are in the air, but I wouldn’t bet my last euro on it just yet.

 

Bond Market Buzz

For the market enthusiasts, 2024 might be the year when bonds become the new cool kids on the block (again). After a year of blistering inflation and relentless interest rate hikes in 2023, we could be heading towards a softer economic climate. This slowdown could lead to reduced inflation and potential rate cuts, making bonds an attractive harbor for investors seeking stability in a sea of economic uncertainty.

 

SOFT LANDING IN SIGHT? STEERING THE 2024 ECONOMIC VOYAGE 

written by Lukas Seelig

 

The Soft-Landing Scenario: U.S. and EU Perspectives

2024 poses a significant question for global economies: Will we witness a ’soft landing‘ in both the U.S. and the EU? Last year, both regions saw a surprising drift down in inflation, confounding the expectations of the ECB and the Federal Reserve. Moreover, economic growth has remained robust, defying the gloomy forecasts of many economists.

On the bright side, robust consumer spending and fairly contained wage growth are fueling hopes for a gentle economic descent. However, the slowly but steady stop of fiscal support, potential bankruptcies triggered by higher interest rates, and escalating debt concerns in both the U.S. and EU cast a shadow on this optimism. Additionally, the fracturing global trade landscape, marred by geopolitical tensions, might reignite inflation and dampen growth, putting the soft landing at risk.

 

Europe’s Interest Rate Dance

In Europe, the consensus among economists suggests that the falling inflation rate will nudge the European Central Bank (ECB) to start trimming interest rates by the second quarter of 2024. This speculation gains ground as inflation in the euro area eased to 2.4% in November, significantly down from its peak of over 10% a year earlier and just above the ECB’s target of 2%.

The ECB, in response to a generation-high surge in consumer prices, has hiked its deposit rate from -0.5% last year to a record 4%. Yet, experts like Fritzi Köhler-Geib, chief economist at KfW, project that inflation might even dip below 2% in the second quarter of 2024. Once rate cuts commence, the consensus is that the ECB will gradually bring its deposit rate down to around 2.25%.

 

Navigating the Debt Dilemma

But what about debt? With several EU governments‘ debt levels soaring above 100% of GDP – including heavyweights like Italy, France, and Spain – there’s a palpable anxiety in the air. Despite this, about 80% of economists believe that the spread between the 10-year bond yields of these indebted nations and Germany’s will not spike significantly. This is a crucial aspect for investors and policymakers alike.

 

ECB’s Cautionary Stance

However, tempering the expectations of an imminent rate cut, ECB Governing Council member Boris Vujcic expresses caution. He suggests that any reduction in borrowing costs is unlikely before the summer. Vujcic seeks assurance of a sustained inflation slowdown and awaits critical labor market data. Echoing this cautious sentiment, ECB Executive Board member Isabel Schnabel notes that while the worst of the downturn might be behind, the euro-area economy still faces subdued prospects. Similarly, ECB Vice President Luis de Guindos hints at a recent downturn and predicts ongoing economic struggles for Europe.

 

SPICING UP THE SINGLE MARKET (it’s not what you think!) 

written by Janik Gast

 

This much should be said in advance: 2024 brings a whirlwind of interesting topics to observe, ranging from EU’s trade policy to the super election year. But amidst these topics, especially the often-overlooked European Single Market captivates my interest, and I’m looking forward to closely tracking its evolution this year.

In the spirit of full disclosure (and a high potential of over-sharing) I recently found myself in a late-night craving for Belgian crisps, leaving me to order some online while indulging in an appreciation for Belgium’s membership in the European Union and the European Single Market in general.

While enjoying international fast-food delicacies created a momentary guilty conscience, promptly balanced with eating an apple (I am a strong advocate of the “balancing tactic”, but that’s another story…) the European Single Market offers far more advantages than just the free movement of goods. From harmonized European standards for consumers to energy security, and vital support for companies during the Covid-19 crisis, its significance transcends (personal) culinary pleasures.

However, as we navigate a landscape of increasingly complex challenges, the European Single Market faces transformative hurdles. The global race for green technologies, the digital transformation, in addition to the need to remove persisting restrictions (e.g. the long-running topic of ensuring fair competition within the EU), are critical aspects to address.

As the European Single Market celebrated its 30th birthday last year, sparking a first debate on its condition, the European Council, in a move that could only be described as a cool birthday present, mandated Jacque Delors Institute President and former Italian PM Enrico Letta with drawing up a report on the future of the European Single Market. In a keynote speech at an event by the Heinrich Boell Foundation last year, Letta acknowledged a certain fatigue surrounding the single market, expressing hopes that the publication of the report in March will trigger a debate in the upcoming European elections and beyond.

I wholeheartedly agree with this and wish for the European Single Market to bask in its well-deserved glory (alongside Belgian crisps!) in 2024. I eagerly anticipate closely monitoring this topic in our nEUrds newsletter editions, hoping for exciting developments!

 

2024: A PIVOTAL YEAR FOR GLOBAL POLITICS AND THE EU – ELECTIONS, AI, AND WORLD CRISES IN FOCUS

written by Moritz Pohl 

 

The “New Year, New Me” mantra seems to take on a unique significance for the EU this year. The impending EU elections and the six-month Hungarian Council Presidency from July onwards contribute to a dynamic political landscape. The forthcoming weeks are expected to witness increased activity in election campaigns and reshuffling of key positions. Owing to the uncertainties surrounding the election outcome, specific legislative discussions are omitted.

Anticipation grows as the focus shifts to the decisions that can still be made in the prelude to the elections. Beyond the EU, numerous countries are gearing up for elections, making this year globally noteworthy. Among the most significant events are the elections in the USA, where Donald Trump is seeking a second term in office, and, from a German perspective, the state elections in Brandenburg, Thuringia and Saxony, which may signify a potentially frightening shift to the right in politics. 

The potential external influences on elections and the role of artificial intelligence are subjects warranting careful examination. The ongoing development of artificial intelligence remains an important topic this year.

Amidst global crises like the war in Ukraine and escalating tensions in the Gaza Strip, which have reignited the conflict with Houthi rebels in Yemen, the importance of humanitarian aid, diplomatic initiatives, and strategic defense planning is increasingly vital in 2024.

Adding to the complexities is the persistent challenge of combating climate change, presenting substantial hurdles. Despite the intricate nature of these issues, a positive outlook is encouraged as we enter the new year, prepared to confront these challenges. Taking a meaningful step towards a favorable future involves active participation through voting. Thus, I leave you with the reminder: GO VOTE!

 

THIS WEEK’S RESHUFFLE

 

Charles Michel’s Bold Leap into the Parliamentary Arena

This week, all eyes are on European Council President Charles Michel as he throws his hat into the ring for the upcoming European parliamentary election in June. This move leaves a notable vacancy at the helm of the European Council. Michel, though required to remain available for Council duties and prohibited from using its resources for campaigning, is still allowed to perform his role as the EU Council chief.

As for Michel’s potential successors, the candidate pool is both diverse and distinguished. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, former ECB chief and competitiveness connaisseur Mario Draghi, and Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel are all in contention. Given the likelihood of a social democrat taking the reins – with the S&D expected to maintain their position as the second-largest group in the European Parliament – names like former Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, and former Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven are also being floated.

 

Didier Reynders‘ New Pursuit

In another significant personnel shift, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders has been nominated as Belgium’s candidate for the prestigious role of secretary-general of the Council of Europe. This development sets the stage for Reynders to potentially take a leave of absence soon, as required for Commissioners campaigning for roles ahead of the June election. The Council of Europe is set to start evaluating candidates by the end of January, making this a critical period for Reynders.

 

France’s Diplomatic Reshuffle

In France, President Emmanuel Macron made a strategic move on Thursday (11 January 2024), appointing the 38-year-old loyalist and Renew Europe Group President Stéphane Séjourné as the country’s new foreign minister. This appointment necessitates a reshuffle within the Renew Europe Group, with Dutch MEP Malik Azmani, the first vice president of the group, stepping up to lead following Séjourné’s departure.

 

WHAT ELSE WAS ON THIS WEEK?

 

Breton’s Big Defense Fund Ambitions

This week saw Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton in the spotlight, announcing his ambitious plan for a massive €100 billion EU defense fund at an event hosted by the liberal Renew Europe group

Breton’s proposal, which rides on the back of the upcoming „European Defence Investment Program“ (EDIP), scheduled for presentation on February 27, aims to establish a significant €3 billion cash pot for EDIP, with €1.5 billion already allocated. 

 

Record-Breaking Day in the Bond Market

On the economic front, Tuesday marked an extraordinary day for Europe’s primary bond market. The region experienced its busiest day ever for government bond sales, with Belgium alone attracting a staggering €72 billion in bids for a €7 billion sale of 10-year debt. 

Spain and the U.K. also witnessed intense demand for their bond sales. This unprecedented investor interest underscores a robust confidence in the stability and economic prospects of Europe, hinting at anticipation of ECB rate cuts and a solid belief in the financial resilience and long-term yield potential of European government debt. 

However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The persistent inflation rates, still hovering far from the ECB’s 2% target, and growing budget deficits, cast a shadow over this bullish market environment.

 

CRYSTAL BALL GAZING

 

U.S. Political Showdown: Trump vs. DeSantis and Haley

As we turn the page to tomorrow, all eyes are on the U.S., where former President Donald Trump, entangled in 91 criminal charges and a 14th Amendment challenge, is gunning for a decisive victory in the Iowa caucus. This event is more than just a contest; it’s Trump’s play to outmaneuver Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and apply pressure on a surging Nikki Haley. The Iowa caucus sets the stage for a high-stakes political drama, where Trump seeks to reaffirm his influence and chart a path back to power.

 

Key Economic Updates: Germany, China, and the Fed

The economic calendar is packed, starting with an update on Germany’s 2023 growth conditions. Following closely, we’ll witness China releasing its annual economic outlook, and the Federal Reserve publishing its Beige Book, offering valuable insights into global and U.S. economic conditions.

 

Economic and Financial Affairs Council’s Agenda

On Tuesday (16 January), the Economic and Financial Affairs Council will gather to hash out several key topics. The agenda includes the Belgium Council Presidency’s economic and financial work program and discussions on the 2024 recommendation for the euro area’s economic policy, a follow-up to the Eurogroup’s deliberations.

 

European Parliament’s Busy Schedule

The European Parliament’s Plenary this week is brimming with debates and votes. On the docket are discussions on geothermal energy, the December European Council, the upcoming Special summit on February 1, and Belgium’s Council Presidency program. 

Additionally, the EP will confirm the mandate on revamping the EU’s economic governance rules, potentially setting new standards for debt reduction and investment flexibility. 

Lastly, a vote on the Report on the implementation of CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) is scheduled, a significant step in EU-Canada relations.

 

TAKE DU JOUR…

 

comes from Eoin Drea, who in an opinion piece, classified joint borrowing on a supranational level as “a distraction from the real economic problems facing the bloc today”, demanding instead for policy makers to “refocus[ing] on the single market, actually finish[ing] the banking union, and perhaps turn[ing] the capital markets union into more than just a press release stuck on repeat”. Damn!

 

Imprint

Your voice matters! We invite you to share your thoughts, insights, and what’s currently captivating your attention. Let us know what you enjoyed in this edition, what’s moving you right now, and which issues you believe deserve a spotlight. Whether it’s a book, an article, or a topic you’re passionate about, we’re all ears. Your feedback helps us tailor our content to your interests and keep our newsletter engaging. So, drop Lukas, Moritz or Janik a line and let’s keep this conversation going. Your input is invaluable!

Are you a Brussels Bubble Insider? We’re all ears and ready to spill the beans! If you’ve got some juicy gossip, insider leaks, or just something intriguing on your mind, we’d love to hear from you. Let’s share a coffee or a confidential chat and keep the conversation flowing. Your insights are the secret sauce that makes our newsletter sizzle. Drop us a line, and let’s connect

Are you a journalist working or writing for Politico? We know you’re in the know! If you’ve got some tantalizing tidbits, insider scoops, or a Politico-Pro subscription to spare, we’d be thrilled to hear from you. Let’s chat over a Politico-branded coffee (or your beverage of choice) and swap some insider tales. Your insights are the secret sauce that adds flavor to our newsletter. Get in touch, and let’s connect!

 

Cheers!

 

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