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Sovereign Debt Restructuring and Debt Mutualisation in the Euro Area: an assessment

Existing proposals for reform in the euro area, including the introduction of an orderly sovereign debt restructuring mechanism and of forms of debt mutualisation, rely on similar implicit or explicit assumptions: The “diabolic loop” between sovereign debt and domestic banks is to be mitigated or avoided; market discipline has to be maintained; and moral hazard has to be avoided. This paper discusses the stated goals of existing proposals, together with their likely anticipated and unanticipated effects and trade-offs. It recognizes that several of these underlying assumptions and frameworks are at odds with the extant empirical evidence. It concludes by setting forth a three-pronged proposal for reform in the Euro Area. First, it is desirable to have a more explicit seniority structure in sovereign debt, which should be achieved by introducing a junior class of risky sovereign bonds linked to nominal GDP growth. Second, governments with high legacy debt and/or high deficits should be required to access new financing by issuing such junior bonds. Third, the extent of fiscal stabilization and banking union in the Euro area should be increased.