European monetary system and european currency

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Economists have explored the scope for economic policy action, and the limits thereof, in the monetary, fiscal and regulatory fields. Without thirty years of academic debate about the role of monetary policy, the EMU Treaty and the Statute of the ESCB/ECB would not have been written the way they were. The subordination of economic policies to the principle of "an open market economy with free competition" would not have been explicitly inserted in the Maastricht Treaty (Article 3A) had those principles not gained recognition in the community of scholars.

Central bankers (most notably in the Delors Committee) have prepared the blueprint for the single currency. International and constitutional lawyers have elaborated the legal concepts and studied the procedures to carry out the policy missions. They have built that legal monument that is the Rome/Maastricht Treaty. Citizens and politicians have discussed, promoted and implemented the whole process.

Different policies carry different degrees of compulsion and effectiveness. In general, instruments are more strongly framed when they are entrusted to institutions whose area of jurisdiction coincides with that of the nation state. Strongly framed instruments, however, do not necessarily produce strong results. Tough regulation against air pollution adopted only by a small country is less effective, for that same country, than softer regulation adopted by a larger group of countries. The economic literature about externalities, or that about optimal currency areas, are seminal examples of the contribution economic research can make in this respect.

In the following I shall focus on the mission of the central banker, because this is the function assigned to me. I am convinced, however, that the missions I mentioned are fundamentally complementary. Different assignments are part of an orderly division of labour. In a democratic and market-oriented environment not only citizens, but also officials, can consider the aims of the various policy bodies and charters - national and international - to which they refer as forming a consistent configuration. I regard this as a special privilege of the time and space in which I have lived so far.


In the last thirty years central bankers have fought for two objectives: the recognition of the primacy of price stability for monetary policy, and the independence of the central bank. This has been the period in which the combination of political democracy and fiduciary currency made the governance of money particularly difficult in many countries.

The intellectual recognition, then the political acceptance and finally the actual implementation of a monetary constitution based on price stability and central bank independence have required a long process. The academic profession has contributed to it in a powerful way, from Irving Fisher to Don Patinkin to Robert Lucas. Even those who have denied the need of having a central bank, like Milton Friedman and Friedrich A. von Hayek, have in the end contributed to clarify its role and function. No less persuasive have been the arguments of experience. In a positive sense, the economic success of the country - Germany - where the two elements had been introduced at an early stage. In a negative sense, the social evil of high and prolonged inflation suffered by many other countries, including my own.

In legal and institutional terms, the result of this long fight has been engraved in the Treaty of Maastricht. The Treaty represents the strongest monetary constitution ever written, not only because of its substance, but also because the procedure to amend it is more difficult than that required for the charter of any existing central bank. Largely induced by Maastricht and EMU is also the independent status of national central banks in the European Union. We should indeed not forget that, until recently, key decisions in the field of monetary policy were still in the hands of the Treasury in such countries as the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain. The Maastricht process has been the catalyst for monetary reforms central bankers had advocated for years.

Partly, but not exclusively, because of this process, the conditions under which the single currency has come to life differ from those prevailing in the past years.

Prices have for some time now shown the highest degree of stability seen for more than thirty years. Most countries have made significant progress towards fiscal consolidation. The consensus on sound principles of budgetary and monetary management is broader and stronger, among both politicians and ordinary people, than in any other period the present generation can remember. Few dispute in an open way the now widely used expression "culture of stability".

Реферат опубликован: 12/08/2008