This paper sheds light on the current euro crisis by looking at the debates preceding the conception of the euro. How can the early days of EU monetary cooperation help us understand today’s predicament? And what lessons can we draw from them for the euro?
Today’s debates about the viability of the eurozone bear a striking resemblance with those about the creation of a European single currency in the late twentieth century. The early steps of European monetary cooperation, the negotiations over the creation of the European Monetary System (EMS), those over the creation of the euro, as well as the other plans suggested which eventually failed (the proposal for a European parallel currency for instance), help us better understand the challenges that the euro faces today. Many of the issues at stake then are indeed still central to debates now. The question of the transfer of resources from richer to poorer member states, the adoption of a German-inspired interpretation of monetary policy, to take but two examples, are issues that anyone reading today’s newspapers will be familiar with. This paper argues that looking at these past debates do not just provide an insight into the past – but also helps us better understand our current predicament.