Европейская денежная система
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In addition, let me remind you that by focusing on the HICP for the
euro area, the ESCB makes it clear that it will base its decisions on
monetary, economic and financial developments in the euro area as a whole.
The single monetary policy has to take a euro area-wide perspective: it will not react to specific regional or national developments.
The institutional implication is that the ESCB should develop into a
strong unity, with a strong centre and strong national central banks. It
should become a truly European institution, with a truly European outlook.
Of course, it may take some time to arrive where we ultimately want to be.
We have to get used to thinking in euro area-wide terms. In the ECB
Governing Council we are already "practising" that approach and are making progress. I am confident that the ESCB will indeed act as a unity.
Transparency and openness will be apparent from the way in which the
ESCB communicates with the public. The ESCB will regularly present its assessment of the monetary, economic and financial situation in the euro area and provide information about each specific monetary policy decision, be it a move in interest rates or an absence of change. This will notably be done by way of press releases, press conferences, publications and speeches. Press releases are made available immediately after the fortnightly meetings of the Governing Council and, as you may know, they always include a precise list of the decisions taken together with background information.
There will be a monthly press conference. Such a press conference
will start with a detailed introductory statement, as has been the case so
far, and these introductory statements will also be published immediately, without delay. In this statement the Vice-President and I will present the
Governing Council's view of the economic situation and the underlying arguments for its monetary policy decisions, followed by a question and answer session.
The publications of the ESCB will include, in particular, an ECB
Bulletin each month as well as an Annual Report. As from 1999, a detailed analysis of the economic situation in the euro area will be presented in the monthly Bulletin. Thematic articles in this Bulletin will include in- depth analyses by the ECB on matters regarding the monetary policy of the
ESCB and the economy of the euro area. Further, you may also recall that, as required by its Statute, the ESCB will publish its consolidated balance sheet on a weekly basis.
My colleagues on the Executive Board of the ECB and I intend to be very active in giving speeches dealing with all issues of relevance for the conduct of monetary policy. I am convinced that the Governors of the national central banks will also play their role in this respect.
Since I am talking about the communication and external relations of
the ESCB, I would like to underline that I am prepared to accept
invitations to appear before the European Parliament at least four times a
year to present the activities of the ESCB and the ECB's Annual Report.
Finally, it should be noted that the ESCB will have a regular exchange of information and views with the ECOFIN. Representatives of the ECB will be invited to ECOFIN meetings whenever issues of concern to monetary policy are discussed. A similar relationship will naturally also exist with the
EURO-11, whose meetings will generally be attended by the President of the
ECB, whenever matters relevant to the ESCB are on the agenda.
3. Monetary policy strategy of the ESCB
We are now approaching the start of the Third Stage of EMU. The decision-making bodies of the ECB have made a certain number of important decisions since the ESCB was established. As part of these decisions, the monetary policy strategy of the ESCB was recently announced and explained to the public. The selected stability-oriented strategy promotes as much continuity as possible with the existing strategies of national central banks in the EU. At the same time, its design is adapted to the unique situation of introducing a single currency in eleven countries, which may to a certain extent change economic behaviour. Therefore as much continuity as possible and as much change as required is the thrust of our strategy.
Our strategy consists of two pillars. The first is an important role
for money and the second is a broad-based assessment of the outlook for
price developments in the euro area. The main reason for assigning a
prominent role to money is the empirically well-founded view that
inflation, at least in the long run, is a monetary phenomenon. This simple
and obvious observation led the Governing Council to announce a
quantitative reference value for the growth of a broad measure of money.
This choice will create a "nominal anchor" for monetary policy and therefore help stabilise private inflation expectations at longer horizons.
The reference value will be derived in a manner that is clearly consistent with - and serves the achievement of - price stability. It will be constructed such that, in the absence of special factors or other distortions, deviations of monetary growth from the reference value will signal risks to price stability.
However, it has to be clear that the reference value is different from an intermediate monetary target, as the ESCB has not made any commitment to correct deviations of actual monetary growth from the reference value over the short term. In particular, it has been realistically recognised that the move to a single currency and ongoing financial innovations may generate fluctuations in the selected monetary aggregate which are not necessarily associated with inflationary or deflationary pressures. For this reason, it is important to continuously monitor the relevance of temporary factors or even structural changes in order to avoid a mechanistic policy reaction to deviations of the chosen monetary aggregate from the reference value. The results of this analysis and its impact on the ESCB's monetary policy decisions will be explained to the public.
Let me turn now to the second key element of the monetary policy strategy, the broad-based assessment of the risks to price stability. The information contained in monetary aggregates, while of the utmost importance, will by no means constitute the whole of the "information set" in the hands of the ESCB. In parallel with the analysis of money growth, a wide range of economic and financial variables will be used to formulate an assessment of the outlook for price developments. The envisaged strategy will enable the ESCB to perform a cross-check between the information coming from the evolution of monetary aggregates and those from other economic and financial indicators.
4. Recent economic developments and prospects
Let me turn to the current economic situation. The euro area experienced a strengthening of economic growth in 1997, to 2.5%, and a further acceleration has been anticipated for this year. The global environment has, of course, deteriorated in the meantime, but this has not so far had an observable impact on growth which has, in any event, been increasingly led by domestic demand. Inflation has remained subdued and even fallen somewhat over the past year, partly as a result of the impact of weaker global demand on oil and commodity prices. However, the favourable pattern of inflation has also been supported by domestic factors, such as a very moderate development in unit labour costs and industrial producer prices.
Concerning recent price developments, HICP inflation for the euro area fell to 1.0% in September, due to a strong impact from food prices, but I would not want to read too much into this latest decline as some price components can be relatively volatile over short periods. More significantly, preliminary data suggest that various broad monetary aggregates for the euro area are increasing at between 3 and 5%, and thus do not appear to signal any strong incipient inflationary or deflationary pressures. We are in line with the consensus view that inflation in the euro area will rise moderately in 1999, but remain below 2%. I do not consider deflation to be a serious risk for price stability at present.
So far, despite the worsening of the global environment, euro area-
wide activity has continued to expand at a fairly stable rate. At around
3%, annual real GDP growth was broadly unchanged in the first half of 1998 from the solid growth seen in the second half of 1997. Industrial production growth has slowed somewhat since the spring. More recent evidence, particularly that of the area-wide survey data, may also suggest a moderation in the pace of growth and further developments in these indicators will continue to be monitored closely. Area-wide growth should, however, be supported by a number of domestic factors. One factor supporting continued growth, particularly in private consumption, is the gradual improvement in labour market conditions. Moreover, the lowest short- term interest rates in the euro area currently stand at 3.3%, and several countries have cut interest rates towards this level recently as part of the process towards interest rate convergence. The process of convergence towards this level has been gradual, but should imply a reduction in the average short-term interest rate in the euro area of about 0.5 percentage point since July. Long-term rates also stand at low levels. And, there has been a marked degree of exchange rate stability among countries participating in the euro. This is undoubtedly a welcome development from the standpoint of encouraging trade and investment. Thus, our assessment is similar to that of other international organisations, that - unless the international environment deteriorates further, which is not currently expected - growth will be somewhat weaker in 1999. Growth should, however, remain high enough to support continued employment creation and, assuming a recovery in the international environment, there should be a pick-up in growth in the year 2000. At the meetings in December the ECB Governing
Council will again assess the outlook for economic and price developments.
Although the economic outlook may be less favourable than expected - let us say - half a year ago, I believe that the conditions for a successful launch of the euro are in place. You can be sure that the ESCB will do its utmost to make the euro a stable currency.
The euro: pushing the boundaries
Presentation by Ms Sirkka Hдmдlдinen,
Member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank, at the symposium arranged by the European Private Equity and
Venture Capital Association on 11 June 1999 in Prague
It is a great honour for me to be invited here today to this
symposium arranged by the European Private Equity and Venture Capital
Association to speak about the new European currency - the euro. Indeed, the theme of this symposium - "Pushing the boundaries" - is very appropriate when speaking about the euro. To my mind, the establishment of
Economic and Monetary Union can be characterised as pushing the boundaries in several ways, such as:
* pushing the boundaries in the process of European integration;
* pushing the boundaries of stability-oriented policies in
* pushing the boundaries of market integration in Europe.
In today's presentation, I shall give an overview of these three aspects of Economic and Monetary Union. Thereafter, I shall discuss more thoroughly the implications of the single currency for the development of the European financial markets, focusing on the capital markets. Finally, I shall reflect briefly on the importance of equity prices, and other asset prices, in the formulation of monetary policy.
1. Pushing the boundaries of the process of European integration
I shall start with a few comments on the role of the euro in the
overall European integration process: I think there is little doubt that in
future books on European history the start of the third stage of European
Economic and Monetary Union on 1 January 1999 will be marked as a significant and unique event in the long process of European integration.
On that day, the national currencies of 11 EU countries became denominations of the euro. At the same time, the "Eurosystem" (which is composed of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the 11 national central banks (NCBs) of the participating Member States) assumed responsibility for the monetary policy of the euro area.
In order to put this event into a historical context, I should like to note that the establishment of an Economic and Monetary Union in Europe was, in fact, originally motivated more by general political arguments than by economic arguments. In the current debate, these overall political arguments have almost disappeared. Instead, the media and economic analysts are increasingly focusing their assessment of the new currency on the recent short-term economic and financial developments in the euro area.
The process of European integration started shortly after the end of the Second World War and gained momentum in the 1950s. At the time, the striving for integration was mainly driven by the aim of eliminating the risk that wars and crises would once more plague the continent. Through the establishment of common institutions, political conflicts could be avoided or at least resolved through discussion and compromise.
The idea of establishing a monetary union and a common monetary
policy was raised at an early stage of this process. It was argued that the
full economic effects from integration in Europe could only be gained if
the transaction costs of exchanging different currencies were eliminated.
Other benefits of a monetary union in Europe were emphasised less in the early stages of the discussion, partly due to the fact that at that time the Bretton Woods system was already providing a high degree of exchange rate stability.
The first concrete proposal for an economic and monetary union in
Europe was presented in 1970 in the so-called Werner Report, named after the then Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Pierre Werner. However, this proposal was never implemented. In the aftermath of the break-up of the
Bretton Woods system and the shock of the first oil crisis in 1973, the
European economies entered a period of stagnation with high inflation, persisting unemployment and instability in exchange rates and interest rates. The European countries applied very different policy responses to the unfavourable economic developments, and policy co-ordination deteriorated. In this environment, it was not realistic to establish a monetary union.
The experience of this volatile period showed that large exchange
rate fluctuations between the European currencies led to a disruption of
trade flows and an unfavourable investment climate, thereby hampering the
aims of achieving growth, employment, economic stability and enhanced
integration. Therefore, the benefits of eliminating intra-EU exchange rate
volatility became an increasingly powerful argument when the issue of
establishing an economic and monetary union was revisited in the so-called
Delors Report in 1989.
The Delors Report contained a detailed plan for the establishment of
Economic and Monetary Union and eventually became the basis for the drafting of the Maastricht Treaty. This time, the time schedule for establishing the Economic and Monetary Union took into account the need to first achieve a high degree of nominal convergence for the participating countries.
The fact that the plan for the introduction of the single currency was then pursued and implemented in such a determined and consistent manner implied, in itself, a boost for the overall process of integration. The momentum of the process of integration is no longer crucially dependent on political decisions. By contrast, the integration of the European economies has become an irreversible and self-sustained process, which is proceeding automatically in all areas of political, economic, social and cultural life. The euro can thus be seen as a catalyst for further co-ordination and integration in other policy areas. This is one way in which the introduction of the euro has definitely helped to push the boundaries in the process of European integration.
Another way to push the boundaries in the European integration
process relates to the geographical extent of the euro area and the
European Union. Here, I sincerely hope that the four EU countries which have not yet adopted the euro will soon be able to join the Monetary Union.
At the same time, I hope the process to enlarge the European Union with the applicant countries will progress successfully. An enlargement of the euro area and of the European Union would further strengthen the role of Europe in a global perspective and should be for the benefit of all participating countries. However, it is clear that countries aiming to join the Economic
Monetary Union would have to fulfil the same degree of nominal convergence as was required from the participating countries when the Economic and
Monetary Union was established. This is essential in order to avoid tensions to emerge in the euro area, which could eventually compromise macro-economic stability.
2. Pushing the boundaries of stability-oriented economic policies
Economic and Monetary Union in Europe also provides an opportunity to push the boundaries in areas of economic policy. The convergence process prior to the establishment of Economic and Monetary Union was helpful in order to achieve a broad consensus among policy makers on the virtues of stability-oriented policies, i.e. policies directed towards price stability, fiscal discipline and structural reform geared at promoting growth and employment. The convergence process also helped policy makers to focus their efforts on the formulation of stability-oriented economic policies in the participating countries and it also facilitated the acceptance of these policies among the general public.
In the new environment of Economic and Monetary Union, monetary policy can no longer be applied as a means of accommodating economic developments in an individual Member State. Such nation-specific developments would have to be countered by fiscal and structural policies, while the best way in which the single monetary policy can contribute to improved conditions for growth and employment is by ensuring price stability in the euro area as a whole. In this respect, the formulation of the Maastricht Treaty is instrumental, since it guarantees the Eurosystem's firm commitment to price stability; it clearly specifies that price stability is the primary objective of the single monetary policy.
The Eurosystem has put a lot of effort into establishing a monetary policy framework that will ensure that it can fulfil its primary objective of price stability as efficiently as possible. There are several aspects to this framework.
First, the Eurosystem has adopted a quantitative definition of the
primary objective - the Governing Council of the ECB has defined price
stability as a year-on-year increase of the Harmonised Index of Consumer
Prices (HICP) for the euro area of below 2%. This is a medium-term objective. In the short run, many factors beyond the scope of monetary policy also affect price movements.
Second, the Eurosystem has made public the strategy to be used for
the implementation of the single monetary policy. This strategy is based on
two key elements, whereby money has been assigned a prominent role, as
signalled by the announcement of a Z- -#"+ !-+
1999SEATSCASE.DOCh[?]?б@[?]Rreference rate of 4Ѕ% for the 12-month growth of the euro area monetary aggregate M3. The other element consists of a broadly based assessment of the outlook for price developments and the risks to price stability in the euro area on the basis of a wide range of economic and financial indicators.
Third, the Eurosystem puts significant emphasis on the need to
carefully explain its policy actions in terms of its monetary policy
strategy. Therefore, the Eurosystem has established various channels for
the communication with market participants and the general public. The most
important communication channels are the ECB's Monthly Bulletin, its press
releases and the press conferences following the meetings of the Governing
Council, the President's appearances in the European Parliament and the speeches given by the members of the Governing Council.
Fourth, the Eurosystem's monetary policy is implemented in a marketed- oriented manner. The Eurosystem's key policy instrument is its weekly tender for two-week repo operations, the so-called main refinancing operations. The features of the monetary policy operations are decided by the decision-making bodies of the ECB, but the operations are conducted in a decentralised manner by the NCBs.
The experience gained from the first five months of operations has shown that the Eurosystem's procedures for decision-making and operational implementation works very well. There are therefore no operational reasons to call into question the ability of the Eurosystem to fulfil its mandate to ensure price stability in the euro area. However, stable macroeconomic policies cannot be achieved by monetary policy alone. It is also necessary for governments to pursue fiscal and structural policies consistent with such macroeconomic stability.
In order to ensure fiscal discipline in the participating countries, the EU Council agreed in June 1997 to establish the so-called Stability and
Growth Pact. This Pact sets an upper limit of 3% of GDP for the fiscal deficits of the countries participating in the euro area. Furthermore, the
Pact specifies as an objective that Member States are to bring government budgets close to balance or even into surplus in the medium term. Only if this objective is met will sufficient room for manoeuvre be created to enable fiscal policy to react to cyclical developments without risking a loss of credibility.
As regards structural policies, the policy framework is, so far, less
well developed. This is worrying given that the need for structural reform
is urgent in many areas in order to be able to effectively promote greater
growth potential and higher employment. I appreciate that these problems
are generally acknowledged, and some action has been taken in recent years.
For example, it is encouraging that the European Employment Pact adopted at the EU Summit in Cologne last weekend explicitly recognises the need to pursue comprehensive structural labour market reform.
Nevertheless, experience from several countries shows that it usually
takes a long time for the full effects of structural reforms to be seen.
Therefore, it is worrisome that structural reforms, in particular as regards labour markets as well as those to limit expenditure on social security and pension systems, are long overdue in several Member States.
Clearly, the establishment of Economic and Monetary Union does not
mean that the efforts undertaken during the convergence process can be
relaxed. On the contrary, the need for policy co-ordination among the
participating countries is now even more pressing. We have already seen
examples of negative market reactions to any perceived slippage in fiscal
discipline or postponement of structural reform. Personally, I think that
these swift market reactions, although sometimes exaggerated, may be
helpful in promoting a continued stability-oriented policy thinking in
Europe. Any move towards less responsible policies would come up against intense peer pressure from other countries.
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