Europe: 'Dark clouds on the horizon' - Op-Ed by Prof. Michael Klein

CNN Money

Michael Klein, is the William L. Clayton Professor of International Economic Affairs at the Fletcher School, Tufts University, and a nonresident Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution.

This weekend's meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are overshadowed by "dark clouds on the horizon" that threaten the "light recovery blowing in a spring wind," according to Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF.

The main source of the dark clouds is Europe, where recovery remains weak.

More than three years into the crisis, policy options in Europe are limited; fiscal stimulus is out of reach for many countries, and recent efforts by the European Central Bank provided only a temporary respite. In this environment, strong and sustained recovery depends upon rebalancing within Europe, whereby countries' trade imbalances are reduced.

But rebalancing is a two-sided affair. We have all heard the ongoing calls for some European countries to rebalance deficits through painful austerity measures.

These calls need to be balanced with demands that countries with surpluses also move to rebalance.

In particular, Germany must take advantage of its scope for fiscal expansion to bolster European recovery and to forestall its own slippage towards an economic slowdown.

There are those who argue that the German surplus reflects its productivity growth and labor market reform. These people argue that Germany could only rebalance by stifling its own economic dynamism.

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