Marc Bourreau, Cristina Caffarra, Zhijun Chen, Chongwoo Choe, Gregory Crawford, Tomaso Duso, Christos Genakos, Paul Heidhues, Martin Peitz, Thomas Rønde, Monika Schnitzer, Nicolas Schutz, Michelle Sovinsky, Giancarlo Spagnolo, Otto Toivanen, Tommaso Valletti, Thibaud Vergé, 30 September 2020

The European Commission is conducting an in-depth investigation of the Google/Fitbit deal. A static, conventional view would suggest limited issues from a merger of complements. Yet, as this column outlines, unprecedented concerns arise when one sees that allowing for Fitbit’s data gathering capabilities to be put in Google’s hands creates major risks of “platform envelopment,” extension of monopoly power and consumer exploitation. The combination of Fitbit’s health data with Google’s other data creates unique opportunities for discrimination and exploitation of consumers in healthcare, health insurance and other sensitive areas, with major implications for privacy too. We also need to worry about incentives to pre-empt competition that could threaten Google’s data collection dominance. As the consensus is now firmly that preventing bad mergers is a key tool for competition policy vis-a-vis acquisitive digital platforms, the European Commission and other authorities should be very sceptical of this deal, and realistic about their limited ability to design, impose and monitor appropriate remedies.

Christian Peukert, Stefan Bechtold, Michail Batikas, Tobias Kretschmer, 30 September 2020

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation came into effect in 2018 to tackle issues of privacy and personal data. Looking at over 110,700 websites before and after the introduction of the regulation, this column examines its effect on non-EU-based websites and on other policy domains, such as competition or trade policy. Both EU-based and non-EU-based websites switched to more privacy-sensitive technologies following GDPR, but only in the short term. The market for web tracking technologies became more concentrated, with Google gaining the most market share among large providers. Privacy regulations can function as nonpecuniary barriers to trade, especially if enacted by a large economic area.

László Andor, 10 September 2020

Maarten Verwey, Sven Langedijk, Robert Kuenzel, 09 June 2020

As Member States start to ease restrictions linked to the COVID-19 pandemic on citizens and businesses, EU leaders and institutions have turned their attention towards the medium-term recovery of their economies. In late May, the Commission presented its proposals for a recovery plan. This column provides a brief overview of the economic rationale for collective action and an assessment of the expected impact of the recovery plan proposed by the Commission.

Cristina Caffarra, Federico Etro, Oliver Latham, Fiona Scott Morton, 04 June 2020

There is a developed public discourse on the need for more enforcement, regulation and legislation of digital platforms. Regulating ‘gatekeeper platforms’ has emerged as a major plank of the new European Commission mandate, with a consultation process underway this week for a plan to introduce both ex-ante regulation and a new market investigation tool with quasi-regulatory powers. This column asks how economists can contribute to rationally progressing the debate, so that it is not based on subjective priors, but uses applied theory to make testable predictions, and data to discriminate between theories.

Cristina Caffarra, Tommaso Valletti, 04 March 2020

Karl Aiginger, 20 January 2020

The new president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has announced a ‘European Green Deal’ and the Commission has asserted Europe’s need to develop a new growth model to achieve climate neutrality. However, the Commission’s limited view of ‘productivity’ ignores the fact that raising labour productivity can raise emissions and accelerate climate change. Instead, this column argues that a welfare-oriented Green Deal needs to focus on resource and energy productivity, not raising labour productivity.

Marco Buti, 12 January 2020

In December 2019, Marco Buti left the position of Director General for Economic and Financial Affairs at the European Commission at the end of a rough journey through the crisis and its aftermath. In this column, he draws the main lessons out of five key moments in the crisis for the completion of EMU and the appropriate policy mix in the euro area.

Thorsten Kaeseberg, 12 December 2019

The agendas and roadmaps for the future of digital policy in Europe have been debated extensively. This column proposes a menu of different policy instruments for the new European Commission in order to achieve this transformation. These include reforming the framework of the e-commerce Directive, regulating super-dominant digital platforms, facilitating data intermediaries as counter-balancing actors, facilitating the rise of European platforms, and pushing blockchain. 

Marco Buti, Philipp Jaeger, Karl Pichelmann, 03 December 2019

A full understanding of the political economy roots of the major economic, social, and political divides that have emerged in our societies is essential to devise the right policy responses and to properly calibrate them in an environment of possibly protracted economic weakness. This column summarises the proceedings of DG ECFIN’s Annual Research Conference 2019, which zoomed in on some of the most pertinent challenges economic policymakers face today: (i) bringing productivity to people and places; (ii) making markets work for all, not just the few; (iii) future-proofing fiscal policies when going green and digital; and (iv) safeguarding Europe’s role in the global economy.

Riccardo Crescenzi, Mara Giua, 26 November 2019

Despite the European Commission’s claims that its Cohesion Policy has had a positive impact on beneficiary regions, some member states argue that it is not fit for purpose and have called for a renationalisation of the policy. This column suggests that while there have been some positive effects on regional growth and jobs across the EU as a whole, these have been concentrated in the beneficiary regions of Germany and the UK, and structural problems in the South of Europe remain largely untouched. This uneven distribution of regional impacts along national lines suggests that individual member states have significant responsibilities for the local success (or failure) of the policy.

Cinzia Alcidi, Daniel Gros, 23 May 2019

The relationship between high public debt and low interest rates is once again at the forefront of debate. This column shows that countries with high debt levels pay a risk premium. This creates the potential for self-reinforcing loops of high debt and high risk premia, which can become explosive. 

Marco Buti, Oliver Dieckmann, Björn Döhring, Bertrand Marc, Andreas Reuter, 07 May 2019

The sharper-than-expected economic slowdown in the euro area last year was driven by a confluence of weaker export demand and sector- and country-specific factors within the euro area. This column introduces the European Commission’s Spring 2019 Forecast, which projects a moderate rebound over the course of this year as global demand bottoms out and some temporary negative factors fade. This will depend on domestic demand holding up despite the stark slowdown in manufacturing, however, and the baseline scenario is subject to downside risks, some of which could be triggered by misguided economic policies. Economic policy should therefore stand ready to react to a sharper and more protracted slowdown should it occur. 

Semih Akcomak, Bastiaan Overvest, 22 March 2019

The European Commission plans to spend about €120 billion on research and innovation under mission-oriented programmes between 2021 and 2027. This column shows that planned spending is small both relative to the total R&D spending of individual EU countries and relative to previous missions. In addition, there is a lack of clarity on how missions will be determined, designed and governed. Experiences in other countries suggest that the Commission should find new ways of increasing funding to missions and increase clarity on the implementation of mission-oriented policies.

Marco Buti, Björn Döhring, 08 November 2018

GDP growth has become more uneven globally, and has shifted into a lower gear in Europe. So it is unsurprising that commentators have started warning about a more severe downturn. The Commission's autumn 2018 European Economic Forecast is no exception in highlighting an unusual amount of uncertainty clouding the economic outlook. The predominance of downside risks implies that macroeconomic outcomes could ex post be worse than our central scenario. This column discusses, on the basis of concrete examples, different types of uncertainty surrounding the still benign forecast baseline. Prudence requires economic policy to prepare for the eventuality of worse outturns. 

Alexandre de Cornière, Greg Taylor, 15 August 2018

A general challenge facing competition authorities in the digital era is learning how to apply the traditional tools of competition policy in multi-sided platform environments. This column argues that the Google Android case offers a great example of the need to consider the implications of the market's two-sidedness. It also argues that bundling can, in fact, be profitable by virtue of its effect on competition once one accounts for some of the key features of mobile app markets.

Hal Varian, 14 August 2018

The European Commission’s case against Android has been hailed as a “milestone” in antitrust enforcement. This column, written by Google’s Chief Economist, argues that the case is more of a millstone than a milestone for not just Google, but the entire Android ecosystem of equipment manufacturers, carriers, app developers, and end users.

Cristina Caffarra, Oliver Latham, Matthew Bennett, Federico Etro, Pierre Régibeau, Robert Stillman, 27 July 2018

The European Commission’s decision to fine Google €4.34 billion for abuse of market power has been accused of being politically motivated and of risking higher prices for consumers. This column argues that the Commission’s decision has economic merit and falls within established legal precedent. As mobile search is the key gateway to access information, we should be concerned about dominance in this market for its potential distortionary effects on innovation and consumer outcomes across multiple other markets.

Moreno Bertoldi, Paolo Pesenti, Hélène Rey, Petr Wagner, 20 July 2018

Ten years after the global crisis, transatlantic relationships are at a crossroads. This column summarises a conference jointly organised by the New York Fed, the European Commission, and CEPR at which the participants discussed the strength of current growth prospects and the likelihood of inflation remaining subdued in advanced economies, and whether the current regulatory and policy frameworks are well suited to supporting financial stability and growth. One conclusion was while an escalation in trade tensions between the US and EU would have significant economic consequences on both sides of the Atlantic, this is not a foregone conclusion and there is room to uphold and strengthen the transatlantic relationship.

Marco Buti, András Chabin, Björn Döhring, João Leal, 13 July 2018

Next week, after ten days of swift, flat riding, the Tour de France reaches the Alps. The European economy, meanwhile, has been pedalling uphill since the beginning of this year. 2017 was easy riding as strong global growth boosted domestic investment, but economic growth has had to move into lower gear in the first half of 2018 as this transmission is no longer working properly, and escalating trade conflicts could derail it. This column presents the European Commission’s Summer 2018 Interim Forecast, which suggests that a tightening of global financial conditions could add to the headwinds, though central banks' balance sheets will remain large for a long time, and domestic fundamentals in the euro area remain strong. 

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