Institutional and Regulatory Reforms in the European Union
Re-Mapping Economic and Financial Governance after the Crisis


The project benefits from a Ford Foundation’s grant, related to its initiative on Reforming Global Financial Governance. The goal of the initiative is “to make global financial governance systems more transparent, accountable and effective”. Our project is part of a network of projects, located in the Americas, Asia and Europe, coordinated by Leonardo Burlamaqui, Program Officer of the Ford Foundation.
The present project builds on the results of two previous ones, all of them funded by the Ford Foundation and focused on the institutional and regulatory reforms of the financial sector. The section on Publications contains the outcomes of the previous projects and the current one.
The main goal of the project is to contribute to the discussions on how to re-regulate the financial sector, with a special attention to Europe. At the EU and EMU level, some reforms are being implemented and many more are in the agenda. In general, they are thought as improvements and not as a radical rethinking of the previous institutional and regulatory framework. This follows directly from the agenda agreed at the G20, directed at validating and deepening the worldwide homogenisation of regulatory standards, building on the existing ones. The current discussions in Europe about the Banking Union, the single rulebook and single supervisory handbook bear the same imprinting. We disagree in three main respects. First, there is an unsolvable contradiction between the goal of a regulatory level-playing field and a regulatory approach critically dependent on principles and supervisors’ discretion. Local interests, not necessarily public ones, will continue to produce unlevelled results. Second, following the complex risk morphology endogenously created by private interests, the regulatory framework is becoming even more open to elusion and unnecessarily costly for both supervisors and supervisees, finally damaging the entire economy. Third, the revisions of the current regulatory framework, while putting some patches on previous weaknesses created by the same regulatory regime, do not touch the mechanisms that create endogenous fragility; at the same time, disconcert about the basic public functions that a financial system must serve continue. 
A complete turnaround of the regulatory approach is needed. We have elaborated the skeleton of a financial reform mainly based on structural measures, following Minsky’s approach to fragility and financial reforms. Its basic features are the radical reduction of systemic and individual size; the full operation of bankruptcy procedures; the elimination of debt funding outside the banking sector; governance and operational disconnections between levered and non-levered financial firms; regulation and supervision alien to risk measures; and room for tailoring financial systems to the specific needs coming from local physiological heterogeneities.
More work is now in progress to refine and complete our proposal for both its general application and to land it more firmly on European grounds. Since a well-designed regulatory framework can avoid the financial system to accumulate endogenous fragility, but not instability coming from large external shocks, a rethinking of the entire universe of public policies is also necessary. For the EU and EMU this requires a consistent reformulation of their constitutional and institutional setup, and the reassessment of the social values on which it was founded.