European monetary system and european currency

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I participate in this Dies Academicus, at the University that carries the name of Goethe, in the town of Frankfurt, in the first year of the euro, with thoughts and emotions that are hard to conceal.

In my early youth, at the time of the decisions that determine one's life, the dearest of my Gymnasium teachers told me: "You have to resolve, in order to decide your future, the dilemma of what interests you most: whether to understand or to change the world." My choice has been Economics. And, the subject of economics being human action, I early discounted that the call for action would prevail, in my motivations, over the enquiring spirit. I did not expect how strongly that dilemma would continue to accompany my life. More importantly, I did not understand, at the time, how much acting and enquiring are complementary ways of being in the world and searching for truth, as Goethe's work and life so profoundly witness. Science changes reality; practical activity not supported by reflection and analysis is ineffective and even harmful.

If I now live in Frankfurt and am here today it is because most of my professional life was spent in an institution - the Banca d'Italia - where eminent persons like Guido Carli, Paolo Baffi and Carlo Azeglio Ciampi allowed the dilemma of my early years being kept somewhat unresolved and favoured independent analysis as a complement of practical activity. They also shared and encouraged the combination of enquiry and action that helped the euro to become a reality. To them I therefore dedicate this lecture.

Academia is the place where teaching and enquiring reinforce each other by going hand in hand. It originates from Socrates' precept that "the wisest recognises that he is in truth of no account in respect to wisdom". Teaching is assertive, enquiring interrogative. One is based on the presumption that we have answers to transmit; the other is based on the modesty imposed by unresolved questions.

The mode of the following remarks will be the interrogative, rather than the assertive one. Not only because presumption is certainly not my йtat d'esprit today, but, more importantly, because the theme of this lecture - the new challenges posed by the advent of the euro - has a distinctly intellectual dimension, not only a practical one. The success of EMU will largely depend on the ability to identify new problems at an early stage and to analyse them without prejudice. While the mission entrusted to central bankers is not new, the challenges in the years to come may indeed differ from those of the last few decades. They may be "new" either because they have not been experienced before, or because they have acquired a new dimension.

In reviewing what I consider to be, for the Eurosystem, the most important of such challenges, I shall use the academic privilege of taking a free and forward-looking perspective. My point of view will, therefore, not necessarily coincide with that of my institution. Moreover, I shall not be objective, because I shall mainly draw on the intellectual and practical experiences that have constituted my professional life.


Policy missions have not been altered by the start of the euro. They correspond to aspects of the public interest that were not redefined, and did not need a redefinition, because of the euro.

In the field of central banking the public interest is to provide economic activity with a medium of exchange that preserves its value over time. In the broader field of economic policy - of which monetary policy is part - the public interest is, to use words from the Maastricht Treaty that can be similarly found in most national constitutions and legislation, "to promote economic and social progress which is balanced and sustainable" (Article B). In the field of European integration, the mission is that of "creating an ever closer union among the people of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen" (Article A). Finally, in the field of international relations the public interest is to "maintain international peace and security" (UN Charter Article 1.1) as well as to "contribute to the promotion and maintenance of high level of employment and real income" (Articles of Agreement of the IMF, Article 1.ii).

The formulation of these policy missions has taken shape over the course of this century, or even earlier, on the basis of experience, scholarly investigation, political debate and action. There would be no consensus about the primary mission of the central bank if countries had not experienced first hyperinflation and then successful monetary management by a stability-oriented and independent central bank. Social progress and economic growth would not be on the agenda of governments without the labour movement and the Great Depression. We would not have the EU Treaties and the Charter of the UN without the tragedy of two World Wars.

Реферат опубликован: 12/08/2008