Chapter News

The European Fiscal Board: Questions and Answers

What is this Board and what will it do?

Following the Five Presidents’ Report on completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union, the Commission decided last October to set up a European Fiscal Board as an independent advisory board on fiscal matters.

It will advise the Commission on fiscal matters. More specifically, the board’s role is to evaluate the implementation of EU fiscal rules, to advise the Commission on the fiscal stance appropriate for the euro area as a whole and to cooperate with Member States’ national fiscal councils. Upon request, the board would also provide ad-hoc advice on fiscal policy matters to the Commission.

The European Fiscal Board consists of a Chair and four Members, and is supported by a Secretariat. The Chair and Members are experts on fiscal policy, public finances and macroeconomics, with experience in European economic governance and the EU’s fiscal rules.

Why has it been set up?

The experience of recent years has highlighted the importance for Member States to implement responsible fiscal policies, which reconcile the imperative of sustainable public finances with the need for economic stabilisation. This is particularly important for the euro area. The Board will provide to the Commission an evaluation of the implementation of the EU fiscal rules, including the appropriateness of the actual fiscal stance at euro area and national level.

When will the Board start working?

The Board will start working shortly. It is up to the Chair to convene the first meeting to set the agenda of the board.

Who will be the Members of the board?

Niels Thygesen (Chair, Denmark)

Niels Thygesen is Professor Emeritus of International Economics at the University of Copenhagen. He has had a long career in academia, coupled with numerous advisory functions for both governments and international institutions. Mr Thygesen has also worked for the Danish Government, Harvard’s Development Advisory Service (in Malaysia), and the OECD in Paris. Among his many other positions, Mr Thygesen is the former adviser to the Governor of Danmarks Nationalbank, Chair of the Danish Economic Council and member of various expert groups on European monetary and financial integration – the subject area of most of his research and publications. Mr Thygesen was an independent member of the Delors Committee, which prepared the outline of the Economic and Monetary Union in Europe in 1988-89.

Roel Beetsma (The Netherlands)

Roel Beetsma is aProfessor at the University of Amsterdam and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Business and Chairman of the Department of Economics and Econometrics. Prior visiting positions include the University of California at Berkeley, the University of British Columbia, and DELTA (Paris). He is a research fellow of several universities, advises national and international policy institutions on fiscal policy issues and has published much research on the European economic and fiscal governance framework.

Massimo Bordignon (Italy)

Massimo Bordignon isProfessor of Public Economics at the Catholic University of Milan, where he is also the Director of the Department of Economics and Finance, after having directed for several years the Graduate School in Economics and Finance of Public Administration.  He has taught and lectured at numerous universities in Europe and acted as President of the Italian Society of Public Economists. Massimo Bordignon has worked as a consultant for several regional, national and international institutions, in particular the Fiscal Affairs Department of the International Monetary Fund and the Italian Treasury.

Sandrine Duchêne (France)

Sandrine Duchêne is the General Secretary of AXA France in charge of audit and compliance. Until 2015, she worked as Deputy Director-General of the French Treasury, where she was also Chief Economist and Head of International Relations. In 2012-2013 she worked as Adviser to President Hollande on economic policy and public finance. Prior to that, she was Head of the Economic Forecasts Division at the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE). She is an economist with a strong practical knowledge of the Stability and Growth Pact.

Mateusz Szczurek (Poland)

Mateusz Szczurek is former Finance Minister of Poland and is teaching public finance and international economics at Warsaw University. He is also Associate Director, Lead Regional Economist in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, monitoring structural reforms and policy dialogue in Central Europe and the Baltics region. He was previously Chief Economist of ING Poland and Chief Economist of ING Group for Central Europe and Eastern Europe. He studied at the University of Warsaw and the University of Sussex, where he obtained a PhD. He brings policymaking and practitioner’s experience with a fresh perspective to the overall fiscal framework.

How were the Members selected?

The selection process for Board Members has been conducted in full transparency, with an open call for expression of interest. It was open for several weeks and numerous excellent candidates from across the EU applied. A selection panel, composed of high-level officials from the Commission and the Council of Ministers, conducted interviews and shortlisted candidates to serve as Chair and Board Members.

The Chair and one Member have been appointed by the Commission upon proposal of the President, after having consulted the Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, and the Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs.The European Central Bank, the Eurogroup Working Group and the national fiscal councils were consulted on the remaining three members.

What were the criteria for selecting the Members of the Board?

The criteria for assessing applications included:

  • Proven and relevant competence and experience of the applicants demonstrating that they are respected international experts as regards macroeconomics, public finances, fiscal policy and budgetary management;
  • Deep understanding of the EU fiscal rules and its role for the functioning of the EU and EMU;
  • Proven and relevant competence and experience with economic policy making; preferably gained from work in policy-making institutions, policy-advising institutions or academia;
  • Knowledge of the EU institutions and EU decision making processes and the role of the European Commission.
  • Experience in carrying out economic analysis from a horizontal, cross-country perspective would be an asset.

The selection panel also aimed to strike a balance in terms of the representativeness of applicants, gender and geographical origin, taking into account the specific tasks of the European Fiscal Board and the type of expertise required.

Is the board independent or part of the Commission?

The Members of the Board will be required to act independently and will neither seek, nor take instructions from, any EU or national institution, bodies or governments, including the European Commission. They are obliged to disclose any potential conflict of interest. The impartiality of the Board’s advice is safeguarded by its balanced composition which presents a diversity of experiences, backgrounds and views.

The new advisory European Fiscal Board will be functionally independent. The Board Members are not employees of the Commission and are committed to providing independent expertise. While practical administrative reasons make it necessary to attach the Secretariat of the Board to the Commission, for instance to access similar data, the Board has been carefully designed as a fully autonomous body.

The Board’s mandate and set-up were set out transparently in the Commission’s Decision of 21 October 2015. Its mandate and independence therefore have a clear legal basis, in line with best practices for independent bodies. The Commission Decision includes strong independence safeguards inspired by the experience of setting up the national fiscal councils.

The Board determines its own working methods by adopting its own rules of procedure and freely organises its activities. As set out in the College decision from 21 October 2015, the secretariat is administratively attached to the Commission’s Secretariat-General.

Why doesn’t the Board take fiscal decisions?

It clearly states in the Five Presidents’ Report that the Board: “should advise, not implement policy. Enforcing the rules should remain the task of the European Commission.”

The Commission’s mandate is based in the EU Treaty, where each institution’s roles in economic and monetary policymaking are clearly outlined. A ‘fully independent expert body’ cannot take fiscal decisions because this would infringe on the prerogatives of the various EU institutions, including accountability and decision-making procedures set out in the Treaty.

In this respect, it is important not to mix up the role of the Board set up at EU level to advise the Commission with that of the national fiscal councils set up at national level. Those councils perform specific tasks linked to national budgetary processes, which do not exist at EU level.

Will the Board’s opinions be public?

In line with the Commission decision (art. 6) establishing the Board, the Board will publish an annual report of its activities, which will include summaries of its advice and evaluations rendered to the Commission.

Will the Board have adequate resources?

A Memorandum of Understanding will be signed between the Board and relevant Commission services. This Memorandum will address budgetary and human resources, as well as access to data and information which are necessary for the Board to carry out its tasks. A secretariat will provide the Board with technical and practical support.

What will be the relationship between the Board and national fiscal councils?

All Member States are required to have national fiscal councils under the “two-pack” regulations. National fiscal councils are independent bodies, which monitor compliance with national fiscal rules in the Member States.

The Board will not interfere with the work of national fiscal councils, but will cooperate with them, particularly in the exchange of best practices and facilitating common understanding on matters related to EU fiscal rules. Such cooperation will benefit and strengthen both the Board and national fiscal councils.

Comoliments of the European Commission