Banks―and the loans they provided in the run-up to the crisis―are at the heart of Europe’s problems today. Yet it would be wrong to conclude that the crisis was caused by too much financial integration. In fact, the real problem may have been that there was too little financial integration. Policies to promote deeper integration of Europe’s banks―including through cross-border merger and acquisitions―should be part of the solution. Further progress in strengthening the institutions of the European Union (EU) is also needed. What’s more, further European economic integration would unlock substantial efficiency gains, which would help to restore growth in the crisis-affected countries.
For a decade or more, we at the IMF have grappled with the idea that very large capital flows into successful emerging market countries were almost inevitable and would prove extremely difficult to manage. Since these topics were first broached at a theoretical level, we have witnessed developments in a number of emerging economies in Europe that reinforce the concerns and underscore the implications for policy. Two lessons may be learned from the experience. First, the choice between fixed and flexible exchange rates is important, but perhaps not for reasons that are usually put forward. Second, monetary policy—and policy to stabilize the economy more generally—needs substantial reinforcement.