Light and shadows in Europe’s new Action Plan for Capital Markets Union

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The European Commission’s new Action Plan for Capital Markets Union, unveiled on September 30th, consists in a nutshell of a short list of technical proposals and a longer one of (rather general) potential actions. Overall, the plan indeed proposes to achieve some short-term objectives, such as a reduction of listing costs for SMEs, but it lacks long-term vision. The plan bundles actions under rather generic objectives of long-term finance or cross-border investing.

Improving the informational infrastructure (e.g. accounting standards, company data) and cross-border enforcement of rules is left to vaguely defined future actions, but these constitute the core of the capital markets infrastructure. Without a well-defined set of measurable objectives, the whole plan may lose political momentum and become an opportunity for interested parties to cherry pick their pet provisions. Building a single market, i.e. removing cross-border obstacles to capital circulation, is too challenging a task to simply appear as one of many items on a long list of general objectives, which incidentally do not include institutional reform. The ultimate risk is that the Commission may just miss a unique opportunity to revamp and improve the financial integration process in Europe after almost a decade of harmful retrenchment.