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Choosing union: monetary politics and Maastricht

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 May 2009

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At their Maastricht summit, heads of state of the European Community (EC) countries agreed to establish a single currency and a common central bank by the end of the century. For students of international political economy, the treaty on monetary union offers intriguing puzzles: Why did EC governments commit themselves to such a far-reaching sacrifice of sovereignty? Why did national political leaders in some cases outrun public opinion in their enthusiasm for monetary integration? This study seeks a political explanation of the choices that produced the late-1980s movement for monetary union in Europe. It examines the conversion to monetary discipline in several EC states during the 1980s, arguing that the shift toward anti-inflationary rigor was a necessary precondition for discussions on monetary union. The article outlines three general options for a European monetary regime, based variously on unilateral commitments, multilateral arrangements, and full integration. Treating national preference formation as endogenous and requiring explanation, the article weighs five propositions that explain the motives and preferences of national leaders.

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Copyright © The IO Foundation 1993

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References

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47. ibid., p. 18.

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49. For a sample of the debates among economists, see de Cecco and Giovannini, eds., A European Central Bank?; Giovazzi, Micossi, and Miller, eds., The European Monetary System; and Wood, “One Money for Europe?”

50. Calculated from Commission of the European Communities, Eurobarometer, no. 33, 06 1990, pp. 15 and 17.Google Scholar

51. Dalton, Russell J. and Eichenberg, Richard, “A People's Europe: Citizen Support for the 1992 Project and Beyond,” in Smith, Dale and Ray, James, eds., The 1992 Project and the Future of Integration in Europe (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 1992), Table 3.Google Scholar

a. The question asked in the Eurobarometer surveys is, “Generally speaking, do you think that (your country's) membership of the Common Market is a good thing, a bad thing, or neither good nor bad?” The numbers in this table represent the percentage of respondents answering “a good thing” minus the percentage of respondents answering “a bad thing.” Eurobarometer surveys are normally carried out twice per year, once in spring and once in autumn. Data in this table come from the spring surveys.

b. Results from the autumn survey are included for Germany because of the large disparity with the spring results.

c. joined the Community in 1981.

d. joined the Community in 1986.

e. lncludes Greece from 1981 and Portugal and Spain from 1986.

Sources. Commission of the European Communities (CEC), Eurobarometer. Trends 1974–1990 (Brussels, CEC, 1991), pp. 6987Google Scholar; CEC, Eurobarometer No. 36 (Brussels, CEC, 1991). p. A21.Google Scholar

52. Commission of the European Communities, Target 92 10 (11/12 1990), suppl., p. 2.Google Scholar The phrase “where national central banks would be represented” may give the suggested outcome a less radical appearance, thus increasing the positive response.

53. Frieden, Jeffry A., “Invested Interests: The Politics of National Economic Policies in a World of Global Finance,” International Organization 45 (Autumn 1991), pp. 425–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar The quotation is drawn from p. 441.

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57. See Peel, Quentin, “EMS Founders Refire Faith in Full Unity,” Financial Times, 19 12 1986, p. 3Google Scholar; and Thatcher to Stand Firm Against EC Bank Plan,” Financial Times, 27 06 1988, p. 1.Google Scholar

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61. Commission of the European Communities, One Market, One Money, pp. 9–10.

a. The survey results depicted in this table are not strictly comparable from year to year. The 1976 survey asked subjects if they would be for or against it if their national currency were replaced by a European currency. The 1985 survey added a third possible response: “Would you be for, against or not mind either way if your national currency were replaced by a European currency?” The “not mind” option almost certainly diminished the size of the favorable response. The 1990 and 1991 surveys, after briefly describing the EC negotiations on the creation of an Economic and Monetary Union, asked subjects if they were “in favour or not” of “a single common currency replacing the different national currencies of the Member States in five or six years' time.”

b. Dashes = no data.

c. the former German Democratic Republic in 1990 and 1991.

d. Excludes Northern Ireland in 1985.

Sources. Commission of the European Community (CEC), Euro-barometre No. 23 (Brussels, CEC, 06 1985), pp. 1718Google Scholar; CEC, Eurobarometer No. 35 (Brussels, CEC, 06 1991), p. A23Google Scholar; and CEC, Eurobarometer No. 36 (Brussels, CEC, 12 1991), p. A37.Google Scholar

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66. See ibid.; Lemaitre, Philippe, “M. Balladur preconise une strategie de renforcement” (Mr. Balladur recommends a reinforcement strategy), Le Monde, 15 01 1988, p. 28Google Scholar; Davidson, Ian, “Chirac Endorses Call to Set Up EC Central Bank,” Financial Times, 8 01 1988, p. 2Google Scholar; and Greenhouse, Steven, “Central Bank is Urged for Europe,” New York Times, 18 01 1988, p. D1.Google Scholar

67. See Greenhouse, Steven, “Concept of a Central Bank Gains Support in Europe,” New York Times, 13 06 1988, p. D1Google Scholar; Wylee, John, “Italy Voices Concern About Development of Monetary System,” Financial Times, 25 02 1988, p. 2Google Scholar; and Marsh, David, Buchan, David, and Dawkins, William, “European Leaders Inch Towards Closer Monetary Cooperation,” Financial Times, 28 06 1988, p. 1.Google Scholar

68. Dickson, Tim, “Genscher Call for Closer European Monetary Links,” Financial Times, 21 01 1988, p. 2.Google Scholar

69. See Torday, Peter, “European Central Bank is Years Away Despite Some New Interest in the Idea,” Wall Street Journal, 7 03 1988, p. 24Google Scholar; and German Bank Chief Offers Universal Currency Terms,” Wall Street Journal, 6 05 1988, p. 43.Google Scholar

70. See “German Bank Chief Offers Universal Currency Terms”; Karl Otto Pohl, A Vision of a European Central Bank,” Wall Street Journal, 15 07 1988, p. 14Google Scholar; Campbell, Katherine, “Pöhl Warns of Danger in Rapid Moves to EMU,” Financial Times, 4 09 1990, p. 1Google Scholar; Marsh, David, “Bonn Supports Bundesbank on EMU, Warns of Rate Tensions,” Financial Times, 21 09 1990, p. 10Google Scholar; “IGC Session on EMU Described as ‘Extremely Useful’,” Agence Europe, 27 January 1991; and Peel, Quentin, “Bundesbank Deputy Calls for Tough Line on Emu,” Financial Times, 19 09 1991, p. 3.Google Scholar

71. Dickson, Tim, “Genscher Call for Closer European Monetary Links,” Financial Times, 21 01 1988, p. 2.Google Scholar

72. See Steven Greenhouse, “Concept of a Central Bank Gains Support in Europe”; and Marsh, David, “Stoltenberg Calls for EC to End All Capital Controls,” Financial Times, 18 03 1988, p. 2.Google Scholar

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74. Buchan, David and Fisher, Andrew, “Curbs on Capital Flows will Test Finance Ministers,” Financial Times, 13 06 1988, p. 1.Google Scholar

75. For a similar conclusion, see Heidemarie Sherman, “Central Banking in Germany,” in Sherman et al., Monetary Implications of the 1992 Process, p. 41.

76. Buchan, David, “Mitterrand Urges Early Talks on EC Monetary Integration,” Financial Times, 26 10 1989, p. 1Google Scholar; Raun, Laura, “Dutch Back Mitterrand's Plan to Accelerate EMU,” Financial Times, 21 11 1989, p. 2Google Scholar; “M. Rocard confirme la détermination de la France de réaliser l'union monétaire européenne” (Mr. Rocard affirms French determination to achieve European monetary union), Le Monde, 11 11 1989, p. 31Google Scholar; and Dumas Suggests Moving Up Monetary Union Talks,” Foreign Broadcast Information Service, 20 03 1990, p. 12.Google Scholar

77. Marsh, David, “Dutch Fearful of Germany Going Its Own Way,” Financial Times, 28 11 1991, p. 2.Google Scholar

78. See Hold on a Minute,” The Economist, 4 11 1989, p. 58Google Scholar; and Kellaway, Lucy, “Kohl Backs Mitterrand in Support for Union,” Financial Times, 23 11 1989, p. 2.Google Scholar

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80. Norman, Peter, “Bundesbank Opposes Control of Reserves,” Financial Times, 2 12 1991, p. 3.Google Scholar

81. For an introduction to the literature, see Blackburn, Keith and Christensen, Michael, “Monetary Policy and Policy Credibility: Theories and Evidence,” Journal of Economic Literature 27 (03 1989), pp. 145Google Scholar; Rogoff, Kenneth, “The Optimal Degree of Commitment to an Intermediate Monetary Target,” Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. C, no. 403, 11 1985, pp. 1172–73Google Scholar; and Weber, “Reputation and Credibility in the European Monetary System.” For an application of theories of credibility to the European Monetary System, see Woolley, John T., “Policy Credibility and European Monetary Institutions,” in Sbragia, ed., Euro-Politics, pp. 157–90.Google Scholar

82. See the contributions in Willett, Thomas D., ed., Political Business Cycles (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1988).Google Scholar

83. As Clas Wihlborg and Thomas Willett point out, it is important for this argument that there be a single currency. As long as countries retain their own currencies, there is at least the possibility of altering exchange rates to accommodate inflation differentials. During economic shocks, national authorities would be tempted to take advantage of this possibility. See Wihlborg and Willett, “Optimal Currency Areas Revisited.”

84. On the notion of tying one's hands, see Giavazzi, Francesco and Pagano, Marco, “The Advantages of Tying One's Hands: EMS Discipline and Central Bank Credibility,” European Monetary Review 32 (1988), pp. 1055–75.Google Scholar

85. Burdekin, Richard C. K., Wihlborg, Clas, and Willett, Thomas D., “A Monetary Constitution Case for an Independent European Central Bank,” World Economy 15 (03 1992), pp.231–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

86. Agence Europe, 31 January 1992.

87. Committee for the Study of Economic and Monetary Union, Report on Economic and Monetary Union in the European Community [Delors Report] (Brussels: Committee for the Study of Economic and Monetary Union, 12 04 1989), p. 2.Google Scholar

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