Европейская денежная система
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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 euro.
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 process.
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 dimension.
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 on
The European System of Central Banks
Current position and future prospects
At a Conference organised by the Royal Institute of International
European economic and Monetary Union
Markets and Politics under the Euro
London 27 november 1998
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 bank.
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, the ESCB will react in an appropriate, measured and, when necessary, gradualist manner to economic disturbances that threaten price stability in
the medium term, rather than in an abrupt way, in order to avoid
unnecessary disruptions of the process of economic growth. That said, the
ESCB will, whenever necessary, openly discuss and explain the sources of possible deviations from the quantitative definition of price stability.
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