Policy Debate: Will the European Monetary
Issues and Background
The introduction of the euro... has clear economic advantages. It removes the
uncertainty over exchange rates from a large part of Europe.... It increases the transparency of
the European market, which makes it easier to benefit from economies of scale, but - or rather, in
addition - it encourages competition. The European System of Central Banks will also try to
bring about price stability over a large area which, if successful, will be an important condition
for a sustainable, real (i.e., actual) growth in income and employment. The economic advantages
of EMU [European Monetary Union] increase in proportion to the size and stability of the euro region.
The ultimate irony, of course, is that the attempt to bind the European countries
together in an artificial currency straight-jacket without political unity and common political
will is bound to result in the exact opposite of what its founders intended: It will lead to a
situation where individual national leaders will blame their economic and financial problems
on the monetary straight-jacket forced upon them. One can well envision a situation in which
Spanish leaders will claim that unemployment is so high because the European Central Bank's
monetary policy is too tight, while at the same time Germany's leaders will blame the central
bank for too high an inflation rate. This is not a recipe for monetary, economic and political
~ Robert Heller, "World View: Europe to Go?"
Most of the countries in Europe are participating in a bold economic experiment in
which national currencies were replaced by a common currency (called the Euro) by 2002.
In May 1998, decisions were made on which countries were eligible for participation
in the European Monetary Union. A European Central Bank was created in 1998 that
is charged with coordinating monetary policy for the EU. Since January 1, 1999, the Euro
has been used for all foreign exchange operations in the participating countries. Euro
banknotes and coins began to circulate on January 1, 2002 and completely replaced
national currencies by July 1, 2002 (existing national currencies ceased to be legal tender
in the participating countries on or before this date).
Supporters of the European Monetary Union argue that the introduction of a common currency
will reduce transaction costs and increase the volume of trade among the participating countries.
This results in larger gains from trade and increases the extent of competition in most product markets.
Tourists will also benefit from the lower transaction costs associated with a single currency.
The introduction of a single European currency, however, also means that the participation countries will
no longer be able to pursue independent monetary and fiscal policies. Monetary policy for the
EU will be under the control of the European Central Bank. One of the major concerns
about the success of the monetary union is whether this central bank will be able to maintain
an independent policy of maintaining a low inflation target. While each country has some
control over its own fiscal policy, the ability to engage in deficit spending is limited since
the monetary union shares a common interest rate. Higher levels of government borrowing in one
country raise interest rates in all participating countries. Countries that maintain deficits
that exceed a specified value will be subject to sanctions. This may require countries to engage
in procyclical fiscal policies during a recession (i.e., increasing taxes and/or reducing government
spending or transfer payments to reduce a deficit).
One of the shortcomings of the European Monetary Union is that three members of
the European Union (Britain, Denmark, and Sweden) have chosen to not participate in the
European Monetary Union.
One of the major issues facing the European Union is the process of "Enlargement." As of 4/10/03, 13 additional countries
(10 former Soviet bloc economies and Malta, Cyprus, and Turkey) have applied for membership in the EU. Most are working on
a goal for joining in time for the 2004 elections for the European Parliament. If all of these countries participate in
the EMU, the area and population covered by the euro will expand substantially.
Primary Resources and Data
- European Union
The home page of the European Union (EU) contains press releases, links
to institutions and agencies of the EU, and information about current
and future activities of the EU.
- European Union, "Enlargement"
The Enlargement website provided by the EU provides detailed information of the Enlargement process. This site
provides information on the status of negotiations with each candidate country on each of the requirements that must be satisfied for
- Euro Archive
The European Union's Euro Archive page contains detailed information about the
process of introducing a common currency. This site contains a calendar
listing critical dates in the process, a description of the currency,
press releases, speeches, and other information that described the conversion
- Euro Essentials
The European Union's Euro page contains a description of the currency,
information on currency conversion, and a list of participating member states.
- European Central Bank
The European Central Bank's web site contains working papers, statistics,
press releases, speeches, and other information dealing with the operation
of the European Monetary Union.
- The Euro: Europe's New Currency
This page, provided by the Pacific Exchange Rate Service and
maintained by Werner Antweiler, contains a large amount of information
on the process of converting to a single European currency. An extensive
list of links to relevant resources is also provided on this page.
- Thomas Smailus, "The EURO"
This page, provided by Thomas Smailus, contains information on the specific
coins and paper currency that will be used in the EMU. He also provides
summary information on the state of the participating economies at the
time at which they were considered for participation.
- Crosswater Systems, "EuroPortal"
This site, provided by Crosswater Systems, contains an extensive collection
of links to information about the Euro and the EMU. Information is sorted
by both the publisher of the information and by the topic covered at
- Nouriel Roubini, "Homepage on European Monetary Union and the
This web site, created and maintained by Nouriel Roubini, contains an
extensive collection of links to online articles and other resources
dealing with the European Monetary Union and the Euro.
- Euro Conversion FAQ
This Euro Conversion FAQ (frequently asked questions), provided by Patrick O'Beirne,
contains substantial information on the European Monetary Union. An
extensive collection of links to relevant web sites is also provided
at this site.
- BBC News, "The Euro"
The This site, provided by the BBC, contains links to articles and information
concerning the introduction of the Euro. Of particular interest is the
material on the UK
and the EMU.
- Northern Light, "European Economic and Monetary Union"
This archived Northern Light special edition web site contains information about the European Monetary Union and
provides links to related online resources.
- Treaty on European Union
This site contains the full text of the Maastricht Treaty forming the
- Deutsche Bank Research, "EMU"
Deutsche Bank, Germany's central bank, provides this page containing
links to numerous studies concerning the process of formation of the
European Monetary Union. (The Adobe acrobat viewer plugin is required
to view these studies. You may download this viewer by clicking here.)
- Europe 2020
Europe 2020 is a think-tank devoted to a discussion of the possibilities for the European Union. This site contains
articles and information on issues currently facing the EU.
- Willem F. Duisenberg, Transcript of January 7, 1999 Press Conference
Willem F. Duisenberg, the first President of the European Central Bank,
discusses the introduction of the euro in this January 7, 1999 press
conference. In his discussion, Duisenberg also discusses the policy
plans of the European Central Bank. A question and answer session follows
- Captain Euro
Captain Euro is a comic book character created to help provide information
about the euro. This site contains multimedia comic strip episodes,
links to sources of information about the Euro, and an online currency
convertor. To use all of the features of this site, you must have the
Shockwave plugin installed in your browser.
Different Perspectives in the Debate
- Willem F. Duisenberg, "The Euro and the Process of European Integration"
Willem F. Duisenberg was the President of the European Monetary Institute and is now serving
as the first President of the European Central Bank. In this March 5, 1998 speech, he discusses
the monetary union's role in the process of European economic integration. Duisenberg argues that
there are significant political and economic advantages resulting from this process. He also
discusses the role that must be played by the European Central Bank in maintaining a low and
stable inflation rate.
- Willem F. Duisenberg, "The future of banking supervision and the integration of
In this May 22, 2000 speech, Willem F. Duisenberg addresses the problems associated with
banking supervision in a situation in which this role is undertaken by banking authorities in
each of the 11 countries that participate
in the European Monetary Union. He suggests that there is a need for greater coordination in
bank supervision policies and practices.
- Yves-Thibault de Silguy, "The Impact of the Creation of the Euro on Financial Markets and the International Monetary System"
This speech by Yves-Thibault de Silguy suggests that the Euro will play an important role as an international
reserve currency. He suggests that the Euro will help to create a multipolar international monetary system that may
be more stable than the current international monetary system.
- Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, "Economic and Monetary Union: The Making of a New Currency"
In this April 10, 1997 speech, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing provides a history of the
European Monetary Union and discusses the advantages of this system. As part of his discussion,
he suggests that some of the Maastricht treaty convergence criteria should be relaxed to allow more
countries to participate in the monetary union.
- Perry Urken, "German Politics and EMU Convergence"
In this article, Perry Urken argues that the slow process of macroeconomic convergence required
under the Maastricht Treaty was primarily the result of German domestic politics. Urken argues that
a more rapid transition to a monetary union would have been a more efficient process and would have resulted
in fewer adjustment costs in those economies experiencing higher inflation rates.
- Robert Solomon, "International Effects of the Euro"
In this January 1999 Brookings Institution Policy Brief, Robert Solomon discusses the likely
effects of the introduction of the euro on international trade. He argues that the volume of trade
among the participating countries is likely to increase with the introduction of a common currency.
Solomon believes that the Euro will become an international reserve currency only gradually.