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SUMMARY

European monetary union THE DARK SIDES OF A MAJOR SUCCESS

This paper revisits the debates that have surrounded the launch of a unique experience: the adoption of a common currency among developed countries. A striking aspect of this history is that, pressed by what they correctly identified as a window of opportunity, policy-makers crafted this complex project in a short period of time, largely eschewing inputs from the academic profession. Academic research, in turn, developed its own views, which turned out to be critical of some ley orientations, yet it generally recognizes that, in the end, the launch of the euro has been a major success.

Over time, many of the academic criticisms have been taken on board, but not yet fully. The monetary strategy has been slightly amended, but it remains the subject of disagreements between the European Central Bank and monetary economists. Events have confirmed that the Stability and Growth Pact was ill-designed; its reformulation goes some way to address some of the concerns but not all of them. Its ability to deliver fiscal discipline is in doubt.

Another look at the experiment highlights the gap between the principles laid out by those who designed the monetary union and the pragmatism that has prevailed thereafter. The resulting tension between principles and actions sometimes obscures the fact that the Eurosystem has acted wisely so far. The widespread perception that monetary policy is not as transparent as it should be and suffers from a lack of adequate democratic accountability is not just annoying. The general public, including politicians, sometimes blames the Eurosystem for Europe's poor growth performance since the adoption of the euro. This is unfair and could dangerously undermine the monetary union if the Eurosystem were to become the scapegoat for the slow and incomplete reforms that are needed to revigorate the euro area's economies.

— Charles Wyplosz