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Leonid Bershidsky

How to Fix the Euro Zone Without Setting Off Alarms

A proposal by prominent French and German economists is designed to defeat facile arguments against reform.
Could there actually be solidarity on euro-zone reform ahead?

Could there actually be solidarity on euro-zone reform ahead?

Photographer: Jasper Juinen

Experts may be out of favor these days, but when it comes to reforming the euro zone, expert consensus is as important as political consensus. Most voters only understand the basic drift of such change; if experts agree on details, it can be reassuring. Luckily for political leaders, an expert consensus now exists: It's laid out in a paper signed by 14 French and German economists from all the important research institutions that shape economic policy in these two countries and from several top U.S. schools.

France and Germany have been on different sides of a political divide that's easy for voters to understand. France and the southern European nations that side with it want more latitude to spend and more help in keeping interest rates low. The German view reflects a broader northern European approach to budget discipline and a distaste for debt. French voters prefer less German dogmatism and more stimulus for development. German voters don't want to pay for southern profligacy. The best way to overcome this and give French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel a chance at a breakthrough is to suggest solutions that shift the focus away from political buzzwords such as "debt mutualization" or "austerity."