Enabling better policy making

The FiFo Institute for Public Economics at the University of Cologne unites top quality economic research with a straightforward "hands on"-approach to policy consulting. Our mission is to enable better policy making.

Primarily, we engage in all fields related to public finance, to urban economics and local finance, to environmental economics, and to questions of demographic change. We pursue these aims: By listening first. By providing the best information attainable. By answering the relevant research questions. By offering top-quality policy advice.

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Climate action, innovation, investment and sustainability - German fiscal policy needs a new agenda. Anja Hajduk and Michael Thöne present the report of the Fiscal Policy Working Group of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Ten guidelines for sustainable fiscal policy are grouped around a new "fiscal triad". The online discussion brings together some intriguing voices: Ramona Pop and Michael Hüther, Franziska Brantner and Katharina Gnath, Veronika Grimm and Jens Südekum. Join us on June 15, 2021: Program and registration here.


Removing environmentally harmful subsidies is the logical first step towards at last making real progress in combating climate change in the German transport sector. However, in order to move forward with effective CO2 prices, it may be necessary to continue to use economically unsound subsidies such as the commuter allowance in order to secure societal approval, explains Michael Thöne in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.


Das Konzept der europäischen öffentlichen Güter könnte ein wichtiger Treiber für die weitere europäische Integration im föderalen Sinne werden. Wie Helena Kreuter in der auf Euractiv Italia veröffentlichten Opinion betont, setzt dies jedoch eine gut durchdachte Organisation ihrer Bereitstellung im europäischen Mehrebenensystem voraus.


 How can fiscal equalization contribute to coping with crises? At the conference of the Vienna University of Technology and the KDZ Centre for Public Administration Research, Michael Thöne will give the keynote speech on the chances of arming all federal levels against such diverse crises as Corona and climate change through good fiscal equalization. Come (digitally) to Vienna and participate on June 9, 2021! Program and registration here


Many features have turned out to be appropriate; some should be made better: FiFo Report No. 30 presents the evaluation of the horizontal and vertical fiscal equalisation of the Free State of Thuringia. Now in the third German Land, the FiFo approach of differentiated, task-specific regression analysis of municipal financial needs proves its validity. It provides the platform for means-tested fiscal equalisation, which is also being increasingly demanded by the constitutional courts of the Länder.


Actual fiscal and infrastructural constraints are often seen as "killjoys" when visions for the city of tomorrow are being developed. But a firm grounding and long-term vision always go hand in hand in scenarios of urban opportunities and challenges. Dörte Diemert, Cologne's city treasurer, together with researchers from difu Berlin and FiFo Cologne present their findings in the April issue of "der gemeindehaushalt” (in German). Please also see the Difu-FiFo report now available.




Sofia Darmstadt and FiFo Cologne have published their economic analysis of municipal fiscal equalisation in the Saarland. The route is clear: unprejudiced funding for municipalities and districts that reflects tasks, needs and centrality is feasible; anachronisms such as "inhabitant-weighting" may very well go. Order the real book here; or use its free digital version (both in German).


In 2016, one of the big German subsidies for maritime shipping, the wage tax withholding for seafarers on ships flying the German flag, was more than doubled from 40% to 100%. Five years later it is clear this had no impact on employment. Apparently, this failure is not a sufficient reason not to extend the aid for German shipping companies for another six years. Michael Thöne comments on this in the Bundestag hearing from the perspective of subsidy control. (In German.)



Federal Europe is unlike the USA. The EU should become stronger and more sovereign through the provision of more and better European Public Goods. In order to make good this claim, the EU will have to assume more of the features of a cooperative federal state with separate standards for decision-making, administration and financing competences. In the Vision Europe Paper 4, Helena Kreuter and Michael Thöne outline the path towards such a European future. The Policy Brief can be found here.

17 May 2021

FiFo Bericht Nr. 30

Eva Gerhards, Bernhard Koldert, Fabian Schrogl,  Michael Thöne

Unter Mitarbeit von Niklas Tontara

FiFo/ Mai 2021/ Bericht, FiFo-Köln


27 April 2021

Michael Thöne, Bernhard Koldert, Henrik Scheller, Stefan Schneider

FiFo / 2021 / Leistungsfähige Infrastruktur generationengerecht finanziert - das Beispiel der Stadt Köln / Stadt Köln  / Stadtwerke Köln

in Zusammenarbeit mit dem DifU - Deutsches Institut für Urbanistik, Berlin



21 April 2021

Thöne, Michael; Bernhard, Koldert; Henrik, Scheller (2021): Geerdete Visionen – städtische Zukunft in Szenarien (Fachzeitschrift für das kommunale Haushalts- und Wirtschaftsrecht, das Kassen-, Rechnungs- und Prüfungswesen sowie das gesamte kommunale Abgabenrecht).

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