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Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
Journal of Economic Policy Reform

For a Special Issue on
Realigning the European Financial Architecture for the Twenty-first Century

Abstract deadline
01 May 2023

Manuscript deadline
01 September 2023

Cover image - Journal of Economic Policy Reform

Special Issue Editor(s)

Judith Clifton, Universidad de Cantabria and Université du Luxembourg
[email protected]

David Howarth, Université du Luxembourg
[email protected]

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Realigning the European Financial Architecture for the Twenty-first Century

The major challenges of the twenty-first century are clear: successfully addressing climate change and supporting sustainable, socially responsible development around the world. In addition to these global challenges, in the European context, specific threats are being made to its decades-long construction of peace: war, division, and tensions are rearing their heads, as shockingly demonstrated by Russia’s war on Ukraine from 2022. Climate change, sustainable development and reconstruction after war all constitute huge challenges for Europe that nonetheless can be partly or fully tackled using sound policies with solid financial backing (Griffith-Jones and Carreras, 2021; Clifton, Díaz-Fuentes & Howarth, 2021).

In this context, it is of grave concern that the European financial architecture has been recently deemed unfit for purpose after analysis by experts (Council of the EU, 2019). By European financial architecture, we refer to the major, public, financial institutions in the European Union, including the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), as well as other European public banks, such as the Council of Europe Development Bank and the Nordic Investment Bank, as well as the system of National Development Banks, public financial institutions and development agencies within Member States that contribute important resources. Recent critiques of the European financial architecture are not new: well-documented critiques of the fragmentation of this architecture have been made previously (see for instance the Camdessus Report, 2010). Rationales behind the criticism of the European financial architecture are varied and complex, but the Council of the EU (2019) — through the so-called Wieser Report — critiqued the current system for exhibiting systemic weaknesses, rigidities, insufficient coordination and significant obsolescence. The lion’s part of the blame was assigned to a lack of effective coordination — and, indeed, “unnecessary competition on standards and conditionality” (Council of the EU, 2019: 23), particularly between the two dominant players in this system, the EIB and the EBRD. The report concluded with an urgent call for deep reform of these institutions, to ensure greater strategic and technical coordination, with a view to rendering banking practice better able to conduct the policy work it has been assigned (Council of the EU, 2021).

More recently, in the immediate aftermath of the out-break of COVID, the so-called “Team Europe” was launched in April 2020, with a view to mobilise resources from the EIB, EBRD, European Commission, EU Member States and the system of National Development Banks, to tackle the health, humanitarian, environmental and socio-economic consequences of the pandemic (Hodson and Howarth, forthcoming). From the perspective of the European financial architecture, however, Team Europe does not involve major change, in the sense that its governance attempts to improve the coordination of efforts without fundamental reforms as suggested by the Council of Europe (2019) report, including proposed changes to supra-national decision-making structures (Hodson and Howarth, forthcoming). As the COVID crisis fades, Team Europe will be in the spotlight in the tasks of addressing the aftermath of Russia’s war on Ukraine when the process of Ukrainian reconstruction begins.

However, it is not just regarding the relationship of these two pan-European public financial institutions that criticisms have been levelled. Both the EIB and the EBRD have been subject to institution-specific criticism with regard to their performance on a range of policies. For example, EIB lending from its origins in 1958 to the mid-1990s originally promoted development and integration within the EU, functioning as a regional development bank (Clifton et al., 2017). However, from the 1990s, EIB lending became increasingly criticized as being overly-conservative (Griffiths Jones et al., 2012). This shift has been traced to the energy crisis in 1973, after which EIB lending shifted more towards supporting Single Market policies (Clifton et al., 2014). As financial globalization and utilities deregulation spread around the world, and excess private capital helped fuel questions about the relevance of public financial institutions more generally, the EIB sought out a new role within Europe, and found this in financing the deregulation, privatization and liberalization of a range of sectors.

Furthermore, with EU enlargement, the EBRD sought a new raison d’être by expanding its field of operations beyond Central and Eastern Europe and expanding its shareholding member states. The EBRD sought to position itself as the leading European public bank focused on global development and downplayed its focus on building liberal democracy. Piroska and Schlett (2022), for instance, argue the EBRD has veered away from its original mandate and has aligned itself with EU Neighbourhood policy in the case of its finance to Egypt.

Despite the fact that, over the last decade, scholarly knowledge and publications on the EIB, EBRD and other financial institutions in Europe that form part of the European public financial architecture have increased, there remains much that is unknown or poorly understood about both the individual institutions and the ways in which they interact, and the consequences of these interactions.

This special issue focuses on the European public financial architecture and asks how this can best be re-aligned in order to face the formidable socio-economic and environmental challenges facing Europe — and beyond — at the beginning of the Twenty-First Century.

Papers are encouraged on:

1. A critical evaluation of the performance of individual financial institutions in Europe, including the EIB, EBRD, Council of Europe and the Nordic Investment Bank.
2. Critical analysis of the significance and consequences of the interactions between these European financial institutions.
3. Critical analysis of the interactions between national and European financial institutions as regards performance and outcomes.

Submission Instructions

Full papers should be submitted using the online platform by 1 September 2023. Please tick the box for this special issue when submitting.

Should authors wish to receive feedback from the editors, abstracts can be sent until 1 May 2023 to [email protected].

Publication will be in the second quarter of 2024.

Instructions for AuthorsSubmit an Article

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