Economic and Monetary Union

These three countries are part of the European Union (EU). In January 1999, when the Economic and Monetary Union was formed, a restriction on the budget deficits of EU countries went into effect. This measure was contained in legislation called the Stability and Growth Pact. [4] Its main component is a requirement that member countries keep deficits below a threshold of 3 percent of GDP. This threshold is not set to zero to allow countries the ability to deal with fluctuations in real GDP. In other words, although the EU does not impose a strict balanced-budget requirement, it does impose limits on member countries. In recent years, however, these limits have been exceeded. For example, in 2005, Germany’s deficit was more than 4.5 percent of its GDP. During the past few years, Germany has been in a recession and, as highlighted by Figure 14.7 “Deficit/Surplus and GDP”, its deficit grew considerably. Instead of imposing contractionary fiscal policies to reduce its deficit, Germany allowed its deficit to grow outside the bounds set by the Stability and Growth Pact. The economic crisis of 2008 and subsequent recession that impacted many of the world economies had a further effect on the budget deficits of countries in Europe, contributing to severe debt crises and bailouts in Greece, Ireland, and Portugal.

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