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Европейская денежная система

scrutiny. It has therefore set up procedures for informing its

counterparties and the public about its monetary policy instruments in a

robust and transparent manner.

The ECB will inform its counterparties and the public through a

document detailing its monetary policy instruments and procedures and

through the regular publication of various materials on its Internet site.

General Documentation

The ECB has produced a document describing its monetary policy

instruments and procedures in detail. This is called "General Documentation

on ESCB Monetary Policy Instruments and Procedures". A revised version of

this document was published recently. This revised version includes all the

newly specified elements of the monetary policy framework of the ECB,

including for instance the minimum reserve system. This document also

includes a calendar for the standard tender operations in 1999 (both main

refinancing and longer term refinancing operations). Calendars of standard

tender operations will be published by the ECB every year.

Publications on the ECB's Internet site

The list of assets that are eligible as guarantees for liquidity

providing operations will be made public on the Internet site of the ECB.

The list will be updated on a weekly basis and users will be able to

subscribe to an e-mailing facility for receiving certain designated parts

of the list on a regular basis. Users will also be able to query the list,

which will contain a large number of assets.

The list of institutions subject to minimum reserves, that is, credit

institutions established in the euro area, will also be available on the

Internet site of the ECB, together with the list of all monetary and

financial institutions in the European Union.

5. Concluding remarks

We are less than three months away from the moment when monetary

policy sovereignty is transferred from the NCBs to the ESCB. The bulk of

the preparatory work has already been completed, but major decisions -

above all, the choice of a monetary policy strategy - still have to be

made. The public can be certain that we will always inform them, regularly

and comprehensively, about our considerations and deliberations. We will

make all our decisions transparent. I have no doubt that we will be well

prepared for the moment at which we take over responsibility for monetary

policy in the euro area.

The euro as an international currency

Speech delivered by Eugenio Domingo Solans,

Member of the Governing Council and the Executive Board of the

European Central Bank,

at The Athens Summit '99,

in Athens on 18 September 1999

Thank you for inviting me to the Athens Summit '99 and for giving

me the opportunity to speak to you at this important event.

I should like to share with you my views, and the ECB's views, on

the importance of the euro as an international currency. I understand

that this issue may be of interest to experts from Greece, a "pre-in"

country which intends to join the euro area, and to many participants

from countries outside the euro area and the European Union, some of

which currently have exchange rate regimes related to the euro.

Nowadays the euro is the second most widely used currency in the

world economy, behind the US dollar and ahead of the Japanese yen. As

we all know, any currency fulfils three basic functions: it is a store

of value, a medium of exchange and a unit of account. As a store of

value the use of the euro as an investment and financing currency is

rapidly increasing, as investors understand the advisability of

diversifying their portfolio currencies among those which are more

stable and more internationally used. The euro is developing at a

slower pace as a medium of exchange or payment currency in the

international exchange of goods and services. This fact can easily be

explained by the combined and reinforcing effects of network

externalities and economies of scale in the use of a predominant

international currency as a medium of exchange, as is the case with

the US dollar. The use of the euro as a unit of account is linked to

its use as a store of value and a medium of exchange. The value

stored in euro or the payments made in euro will tend to be counted in


There are good reasons to expect an increase in international

public use of the euro as a reserve, intervention and pegging

currency, inasmuch as the public authorities understand that it is

worthwhile to allocate their foreign reserves among the main

international currencies and to give the euro a relevant share in

accordance with its internal and external stability and the economic

and financial importance of the euro area.

In connection with the use of the euro as a pegging currency,

approximately 30 countries outside the euro area currently have

exchange rate regimes involving the euro to a greater or lesser

extent. These exchange rate regimes are currency boards (Bosnia-

Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Estonia); currencies pegged to the euro

(Cyprus, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and 14 African

countries in which the CFA franc is the legal tender); currencies

pegged to a basket of currencies including the euro, in some cases

with a fluctuation band (Hungary, Iceland, Poland, Turkey, etc.);

systems of managed floating in which the euro is used informally as

the reference currency (Czech Republic, Slovak Republic and Slovenia);

and, last but not least, European Union currencies pegged to the euro

through a co-operative arrangement, namely ERM II. As you well know,

Denmark and Greece joined ERM II on 1 January 1999 with a ±2.25%

fluctuation band for the Danish krone and a ±15% fluctuation band for

the Greek drachma. Although the euro remains in second position after

the US dollar in terms of its official use, the role of the euro will

increase in the future, without a doubt, especially after the year

2002 when the euro banknotes and coins will begin to circulate.

Taking the current situation as a starting point, the

Eurosystem's position concerning the future international role of the

euro is crystal clear: we shall not adopt a belligerent stance in

order to force the use of the euro upon the world economy. We are

convinced that the use of the euro as an international currency will

come about anyway. It will happen spontaneously, slowly but

inexorably, without any impulses other than those based on free will

and the decisions of market participants, without any logic other than

that of the market. In other words, the internationalisation of the

euro is not a policy objective of the Eurosystem; it will neither be

fostered nor hindered by us. The development of the euro as an

international currency will be a market-driven process, a free


The euro fulfils the necessary conditions to be a leading

international currency with the US dollar and not against it. There is

enough room for both currencies in the world economy. The necessary

conditions for a currency to become an international currency are

based on two broad factors: low risk and large size. The low risk

factor is related to the confidence inspired by the currency and its

central bank, which in turn mainly depends on the internal and

external stability of the currency. The low risk factor tends to lead

to diversification among international currencies, since

diversification is a means to reduce the overall risk; it acts, so to

speak, as a centrifugal force. By contrast, the large size factor

relates to the relative demographic economic and financial importance

of the area which supports the currency; in other words, the "habitat"

of the currency. The large size factor, which concerns the

demographic, economic and financial dimension, generally tends to lead

to centralisation around one or a few key international currencies. It

can be seen as a centripetal force, as a virtuous circle, which will

tend to lead to an increasing use of the euro as an international

currency. Let us consider these two factors in more detail.

The first factor concerns low risk, credibility and stability.

The stability of the euro is a priority for the ECB. Compared with the

idea of stability, the strength of the euro is of lesser importance.

This does not mean that the exchange rate of the euro does not

constitute an element to be considered in the second pillar of the

monetary policy strategy of the ECB, which consists of a broadly based

assessment of the outlook for price developments and risks to

stability obtained from a wide range of economic indicators, the euro

exchange rate being one of them. However, the basic factor that will

determine the importance of the euro as a widely used currency in the

world economy, in addition to the demographic, economic and financial

dimensions of the euro area, is, without a doubt, the stability of the

new currency, understood as a means to maintain the purchasing power

of savings.

Stability is the basic requirement for a good currency. It is

what we at the ECB want for the euro. We want a stable euro and we are

convinced that, in the long term, the euro will derive strength from

its stability.

The stability of the euro is the basis for the confidence in and

the credibility of the ECB, without which a large international role

for the euro would be unthinkable. Stability is the proof of the

effectiveness of the institution. Yet in order to be credible it is

not sufficient for the ECB to maintain stability. Other parameters of

its action must be considered: accountability, transparency and

communication, a Europe-wide perspective, etc.

These parameters or conditions for the credibility of the euro

are certainly demanding. However, the achievement of these conditions

is the aim of all those of us who have responsibilities with regard to

the functioning of the Eurosystem.

The second factor, which we have called the large size factor or

the habitat of the euro, is important because without a certain

critical mass, a currency cannot have international relevance, however

high its degree of stability.

The figures relating to the population and the GDP of the euro

area illustrate this. With 292 million inhabitants, its population

exceeds that of the United States (270 million) and that of Japan (127

million). The GDP of the euro area is, on the other hand, equal to 76%

of the GDP of the United States (EUR 5,774 billion compared with EUR

7,592 billion), though it is higher than that of Japan (EUR 3,327

billion). The source of this information, which refers to 1998, is


However, even more important than the current figures is the

potential for the future development of the euro area, in terms of

population and GDP, if and when the so-called "pre-ins" (Denmark,

Greece, Sweden and the United Kingdom) join the Eurosystem.

The entry of these countries would result in a monetary area of

376 million inhabitants, 39% larger than the United States and almost

triple the size of Japan, with a GDP of EUR 7,495 billion, only

slightly less than that of the United States and 125% higher than that

of Japan.

All these facts and figures which demonstrate the demographic and

economic importance of the European Union would be further

strengthened by enlargement to eastern Europe. Our continent has a

historical, cultural and geographical identity - from the Iberian

peninsula to the Urals, with certain additional external territories -

which, in the future, may also come to form an economic unit. However

that is, for the moment, a distant prospect.

The size or habitat of an economy does not only depend on

demographic or economic factors; it also has to do with the financial

base or dimension of the area. In considering the financial dimension

of the euro area, the first relevant feature to observe is the low

level of capitalisation of the stock markets in comparison with the

United States and Japan.

Although this feature could give the impression that the euro

area has a relatively small financial dimension relative to its

economic dimension, this is not the case. The lower degree of

development of the capital markets is offset by a higher degree of

banking assets. This means that the financial base of real economic

activity in Europe is founded on bank intermediation, which is also a

feature of the Japanese economy. For example, private domestic credit

in the euro area amounts to 92.4% of GDP, while in the United States

it is only 68.9%. Conversely, fixed domestic income represents 34.2%

of GDP in the euro area compared with 66.1% of GDP in the United

States (statistics from the International Monetary Fund and the Bank

for International Settlements as at the end of 1997, taken from the

Monthly Bulletin of the European Central Bank). We, therefore, have

two distinct models of private financing which clearly have to be

taken into account when assessing Europe's financial dimension

compared with the United States or Japan.

The euro, the Eurosystem's monetary policy and, in general, the

activity of the ECB and the Eurosystem play a key role in the

integration of European financial markets and all markets in general.

The euro is acting as a catalyst for European economic integration.

And more integration will lead to a greater economic and financial


Monetary and financial integration stemming from the euro and the

activity of the Eurosystem will affect the operation of the single

European market in a positive way. The European market, with a single

currency, will tend to be more transparent, more competitive, more

efficient and will function more smoothly. This is the reason why

joining the European Union, as a general rule, will lead to joining

the euro area, once certain economic conditions (the so-called

convergence criteria) have been fulfilled.

Monetary union is always a political operation, irrespective of

its technical and economic implications. Currency is one of the most

genuine expressions of sovereignty, because the power to issue money

is one of the greatest powers in existence. The Treaty on European

Union led, first, to the depoliticisation of monetary power in Europe,

by means of granting independence to the central banks and prohibiting

the monetising of public deficits, and afterwards to denationalisation

or supranationalisation (via the creation of the Eurosystem). The

Eurosystem was not only created for the purpose of improving the

operation of the Single Market, but also in order to make progress on

the building of the European political structure.

The euro should not only be seen as a catalyst for European economic

integration, it should also be seen as a main beam necessary to

construct the European political structure. The relationship between

political power and monetary power is an interesting subject which is

open to investigation and discussion, but that would certainly go

beyond the scope of this speech. I merely wish to point out that, in

the case of Europe, it is clear that following the achievement of a

single currency, the door remains open to political union, which would

represent a crucial step in the process of integration. In conclusion,

it would seem clear that the implications of the euro go "beyond

supply and demand" (to use the title of the work of Wilhelm Rцpke). We

are now fully immersed in "meta-economy", which means it is time to

end my speech.

Keynote address to be delivered by

Dr. Willem F. Duisenberg

President of the European Central Bank


The European System of Central Banks

Current position and future prospects

At a Conference organised by the Royal Institute of International

Affairs on

European economic and Monetary Union

Markets and Politics under the Euro

London 27 november 1998

1. Introduction

Ladies and Gentlemen, I should like to express my appreciation at

being invited to deliver a speech at this conference organised by the Royal

Institute of International Affairs. It is a great pleasure for me to be

here, in London, today.

The topic I am going to address relates to the current position and

the future prospects of the European System of Central Banks. I feel that

this topic provides me with an opportunity to deal with the objective of

the ESCB and its contribution to the other policies in the Community. I

will also briefly touch upon the decision-making in the ESCB, recall the

main features of our monetary policy strategy and talk about our regard for

openness and transparency. The final part of my talk will cover the views

of the ESCB on recent economic developments and the future outlook for

price stability in the euro area.

2. Independence, transparency and accountability

In the Maastricht Treaty the ESCB has been given an independent

status. The reason is that politicians all over the world have come round

to the view that monetary policy decisions taken with too close a political

involvement tend to take too short a time horizon into consideration. The

consequence is that in the longer term such decisions do not support

sustainable gains in employment and income, but only lead to higher

inflation. This view is confirmed by a host of economic research.

Independence, however, requires a clear mandate. The ESCB has such a

mandate. Its primary objective is to maintain price stability. Without

prejudice to the objective of price stability the ESCB shall support the

general economic policies in the Community. Price stability is not an end

in itself: it creates the conditions in which other, higher-order,

objectives can be reached. In particular, I share the deep concerns about

the unacceptably high level of unemployment in Europe. The ESCB will do

what it can to contribute to the solution of this problem. By maintaining

price stability inflation expectations and interest rates can be kept at a

low level. This creates a stability-oriented environment which fosters

sustainable growth, a high level of employment, a fair society and better

living standards. Moreover, in specific circumstances, if production,

inflation and employment all move in the same direction, monetary policy

can play some role in stabilising output and employment growth without

endangering price stability. However, the contribution from monetary policy

can generally be only limited. Given the structural nature of the

unemployment problems the solution is to be found, above all, in structural

reforms aimed at well-functioning labour and product markets.

An independent central bank does not only need a clear mandate. It

has also to be an open and transparent institution, for at least three

reasons. First, transparency enhances the effectiveness of monetary policy

by creating the correct expectations on the part of economic agents. A

predictable monetary policy contributes to achieving stable prices without

significant adjustment costs and with the lowest interest rate possible.

The second reason is that in a democratic society the central bank has to

account for its policies. Finally, transparency towards the outside world

can also structure and discipline the internal debate inside the central


Let me now turn to the ways and means of achieving transparency. As a

first element the ESCB has defined a quantitative objective for price

stability. It reads as follows: price stability is a year-on-year increase

in the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) for the euro area of

below 2%. Although I do not consider deflation to be likely in the current

environment, I may add that a situation of falling prices would not be

consistent with price stability.

The Governing Council has made it clear that "Price stability is to

be maintained over the medium term". The ESCB cannot be held accountable

for short-run deviations from price stability, for example due to shocks in

import prices or specific fiscal measures. A monetary policy reaction to

short-run fluctuations in the price level would provide the wrong signals

to the market and cause unnecessary interest rate volatility. In summary,

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