Каталог :: Экономика

Курсовая: European Monetary System

                 European Monetary System and European Currency                 
      Based on selected papers kindly provided by the European Central Bank      
                            Compiled by Dm. Evstafiev                            
               for the students of the School of Political Science               
                       at St. Petersburg State University                       
                                 St. Petersburg                                 
                                      1999                                      
Developments in the Financial Sector in Europe
                     following the Introduction of the Euro                     
                       Speech by Dr. Willem F. Duisenberg,                       
                     President of the European Central Bank,                     
       to be delivered at the Third European Financial Markets Convention       
                               Milan, 3 June 1999                               
1. Introduction
The period of the five months following the introduction of the euro has been
very rich in new events, with significant developments taking place both in
the continental securities markets and in the financial system as a whole.
Although experience has been gathered over a relatively short period of time,
I am tempted to make two observations of a fundamental nature.
The first observation is that developments following the introduction of the
euro do not imply that the euro area is set to become a financial fortress
whose financial markets and institutions would be cut off from the rest of
the world. In fact, market participants residing outside the euro area seem
to be taking a keen interest in the financial markets of the euro area. "Core
Europe", so to speak, has become more interesting to outsiders as the breadth
and liquidity of its financial markets has increased.
The second observation is that the euro can be expected to have a significant
influence on the structure of the financial system by bringing about more
securitisation. A traditional feature of the financial system of continental
Europe has been a marked dependency on the funds intermediated by banks. This
feature contrasts with the financial system of the United States which is
much more securitised. For instance, corporate bonds have not been very
widely issued in the euro area, and stock market capitalisation - relative to
the size of the economy - is much lower in the euro area than in the United
States. There are good reasons to believe that a process of securitisation
will gather pace in the euro area now that the single currency is in use.
This view seems to be shared by many observers and I shall, in the course of
my remarks, provide some arguments in its favour.
In my remarks today, I should like to discuss the structural changes in the
financial sector, in particular those that have occurred as a result of the
launch of new product types and the changing nature of public and private
institutions. I shall address developments in the money markets, the bond
markets and the equity markets as well as the process of adaptation of
banking institutions to their new environment.
2. Money markets
The money markets of the euro area became rapidly integrated after the
introduction of the euro despite the fact that their structures had
previously been quite different at the national level. Transaction volumes
and measures of bid-ask spreads on the various money market instruments both
indicate that the markets reached a very high level of liquidity very rapidly
in the course of January 1999 and have subsequently retained it.
The high degree of integration of the euro area money markets is, first of
all, a result of the single monetary policy, which is conducted through the
harmonised operational framework of the Eurosystem. This integration has also
been made possible by the significant and increasing integration of payment
systems. Cross-border payments processed by TARGET accounted for more than
37% of the value of all real-time payments (domestic and cross-border)
effected by credit institutions in March and April 1999. Moreover, the
continuously high use which our counterparties make of the correspondent
central banking model (or CCBM) for the cross-border transfer of collateral
in monetary policy operations is an important indication of area-wide
integration. This is evidenced by the fact that cross-border collateral
currently represents around 25% of the total amount of collateral in custody
in the context of the Eurosystem's monetary policy operations.
Taking a closer look at the various instruments traded in the money markets,
a feature that is worthy of note is that market participants in the 11
countries of the euro area have shown an increasing tendency to demonstrate a
similar reliance on each instrument type. For example, what we call
"overnight indexed swaps", which are swaps indexed on the overnight reference
interest rate EONIA, have become an important derivative instrument in the
money markets of the euro area. This can be seen from the low level of quoted
bid-ask spreads and the high turnover relative to other major international
markets. Both indicators show a high level of liquidity in this instrument.
Another type of instrument of interest in the money market (but also at the
fringe of the bond market) is that of the repurchase agreement. The
development of more integrated repo markets in the euro area will obviously
accompany the development of area-wide securities trading, settlement and
custody systems. This will reduce transaction costs and improve efficiency
for the cross-border transfer of securities through repurchase operations.
Looking ahead, other developments in the money markets are expected in the
coming months. There are aims to establish new area-wide standards for the
repo markets, with a view to overcoming the separation between different
models in the national markets. These new standards could obviously co-exist
with other standards and broader conventions for international transactions.
In fact, over the last few months the European Central Bank (ECB) has been
examining whether this co-existence could affect the integration of money
markets. We have come to the conclusion that, in particular owing to the
efforts of the sponsors of the different standards, this should not be
considered a threat.
Finally, it should also be noted that national and international central
securities depositories are currently developing links with one another,
which will enable participants in one country to make direct use of
securities deposited in other countries. Twenty-six of these links
(concerning mainly Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands,
Austria and Finland) may be used by the Eurosystem.
3. Bond markets
I should now like to turn to bond markets and first to comment on the
position of euro area bond markets in the global market. Some data sources on
international securities issuance available so far show a pattern of
increased reliance on euro-denominated bonds at the beginning of 1999, in
particular as opposed to US dollar-denominated bonds. While it remains
difficult to draw firm conclusions on the determinants of bond denomination
choices without considering information on the nature of bond holdings and
trading patterns, recent bond issuance volumes indicate that the euro has the
potential to become an important currency for international bond issuance.
The importance of the euro area bond market is also apparent in measures of
secondary market activity, i.e. turnover or trading volumes. In particular,
trading volumes on exchange-traded bond futures are indicative of the overall
degree of market activity. Volumes traded in euro-denominated bond futures
were low shortly before the changeover to the euro, when the bond markets in
the euro area were exceptionally quiet. Since then, volumes have increased
markedly and they currently stand at consistently high levels, which
indicates a continuously high degree of turnover in euro-denominated bond
markets in general.
Turning to the internal structure of the bond markets of the euro area, I
should like to make an initial observation related to the recent marked
increase in euro-denominated corporate bond issuance, which was accompanied
by an increase in the average size of issues. This tendency is likely to
continue in the future, in particular to the extent that bonds may be used by
firms to finance increasing mergers and acquisitions activity in the euro
area. The underlying reasons for increased bond issuance by euro area firms
are clear, both on the supply and on the demand side. On the supply side,
large firms with good credit ratings will find opportunities in the increased
depth and liquidity of the euro area bond market. On the demand side, the
respect by governments of the parameters of the Stability and Growth Pact
over the medium term should leave more room for the private sector to issue
debt securities. In addition, the euro area must be in a position to save in
order to be able to take care of its future pension payments, and a part of
these savings is likely to be invested in corporate debt securities. An
increase in global demand for euro-denominated debt securities is also
expected as the euro becomes a major reserve currency. Moreover, the demand
for higher risk euro-denominated debt securities is likely to increase,
particularly as the current low level of sovereign yields increases
incentives to search for higher yields.
With regard to the government bond markets, an issue of importance for the
euro area that I should like to stress is the fact that governments now find
themselves in a rather new position as issuers. This reflects a number of
developments, two of which I should particularly like to mention. First, the
major public issuers have attempted to position themselves as providers of
benchmarks for euro-denominated bond markets. Second, certain issues of
government bonds have effectively gained larger portions of secondary
markets, in particular in relation to developments that have occurred on bond
futures markets.
Market participants have responded to these developments in the bond markets
with a range of concurring or competing initiatives and alliances. In the
derivatives industry, market participants have established new alliances. On
the trading side, electronic cross-border platforms for bonds have been
created or are in the process of being developed. On the clearing side,
integrated platforms for different markets have been launched or are being
finalised, while, finally, on the securities settlement side, initiatives
have also been launched. It is important to note that while some of these
developments are internal to the euro area, others aim at creating links with
financial markets outside the euro area. One may reasonably expect that all
of these new circuits, as well as others, may in the future be enlarged to
encompass a growing number of market participants.
4. Equity markets
Turning to equity markets, structural developments of most interest relate to
the infrastructure of stock exchanges on the one hand and equity derivative
exchanges on the other. First, within the euro area, equity investment and
trading activities appear to be less and less influenced by country-specific
factors and increasingly subject to area-wide considerations. Consistent with
this development, area-wide equity indices have been developing. Market
participants are showing considerable interest in these area-wide indices, in
particular as they are also now adopting investment positions on area-wide
industrial sectors, using the sub-indices made available for that purpose. An
indication of the degree of interest raised by area-wide indices is the
relatively fierce competition for benchmark status that has developed between
the various proponents of area-wide indices.
Second, market developments in relation to stock index futures and options
will reflect the rise of area-wide indices. This may in turn lead to either
consolidation or product specialisation of equity derivative exchanges. For
my part, I consider the development of fair competition between exchanges to
be a positive factor in terms of the improvement of the range of products and
services available to the financial industry.
Third, in the equity market the euro has also provided a powerful incentive
for the creation of new - and possibly competing - alliances among exchanges.
Before the launch of the single currency, circuits had been created for the
launch of integrated "new markets" within and beyond the euro area,
encompassing the shares of small and medium-sized companies with a high
potential for growth. The development in the integration of exchanges has
also continued more recently, and, as you know, it has not been limited to
the euro area.
5. Banking
In the field of banking, the securitisation trend appears to demand strategic
and organisational adjustment on the part of banks. The relative importance
of the more traditional types of banking activity can be seen to be
decreasing, even though it should be mentioned that traditional banking
activities have nonetheless continued to grow at a rate exceeding that of
growth of nominal GDP. In the euro area, growth in recent years has been much
more rapid in assets under the management of mutual funds and other
institutional investors than in the assets of banks. This reflects a tendency
towards decreasing the relative weight of bank deposits compared with
securities in financial wealth.
The euro area banking industry has reacted to this development already by
diversifying into the asset management area. Banking groups have been able to
"internalise" a significant part of the securitisation tendency as they
control a large majority of the mutual funds. As a result of the
securitisation trend, there has been an increase in the share of security
holdings among bank assets, and an increase in the share of capital gains -
although those are quite cyclically sensitive - as well as in fee income
stemming from asset management services. Meanwhile, the relative importance
of interest income has declined correspondingly. At the bank level, dividend
income from equity participations has generally become much more important,
indicating an increase in the importance of the profit generated by non-bank
subsidiaries.
Beside the establishment of non-bank subsidiaries, there have been other
strategic and organisational changes that have resulted in banks
strengthening their securities-related activities. In particular, significant
motives behind the recent merger trend seem to include the desire to increase
bank size and hence to be able to operate efficiently in wholesale securities
markets as well as to be able to cater for the needs of large international
corporations for investment banking services.
The trend towards securitisation can be regarded as one of the reasons for
the structural changes in the banking system that appears to have accelerated
recently. There have naturally also been other reasons why banks have sought
to merge, predominantly the need to cut capacity and to reduce costs. These
cost-driven mergers have taken place primarily among smaller banks.
6. Conclusion
In my remarks today, I have referred to a number of changes and market
initiatives in the euro area financial landscape. These developments point to
the increasing importance of the fixed income and equity markets that many
expected in Stage Three of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), providing new
opportunities for borrowers and investors and causing pressure to adjust for
financial institutions. In this respect, I should like to mention the
importance of removing the remaining regulatory barriers to the further
development of the securities markets. To this end, the European Commission
has recently published an Action Plan of regulatory changes to improve the
single market for financial services that would certainly - when implemented
- boost the integration and market-driven development of the European
securities markets.
Finally, I should like to conclude with some remarks about the role of the
Eurosystem (the term that we use to mean the ECB and the 11 national central
banks of the Member States participating in Stage Three of EMU) in the
developments in the financial sector in Europe. First of all, the Eurosystem
contributes to developments in the financial sector by providing it with a
stable and credible monetary policy. With a strong and credible commitment to
its primary objective, price stability, the Eurosystem has created a
situation in which the financial sector can concentrate on those issues that
are of the greatest relevance to its activities.
The Eurosystem does not play a direct role in structural developments in the
financial sector. With its single monetary policy framework and TARGET in
particular, the Eurosystem has created an infrastructure that has proved to
be useful for the establishment of an integrated money market in the euro
area.
In addition, the Eurosystem carefully monitors structural developments in the
financial sector to the extent that they might have an impact on the conduct
of monetary policy. To make a final point, in observing developments in the
financial sector, the Eurosystem constantly takes account of the fact that
one of its tasks, laid down in the Treaty establishing the European
Community, is to "contribute to the smooth conduct of policies pursued by the
competent authorities relating to (.) the stability of the financial system"
[(Article 105 (5))]. Analysis of the common developments in the European
financial system represents such a contribution.
                                       ***                                       
          Economic and Monetary Union in Europe - the challenges ahead          
                     Speech by Professor Dr. L.H. Hoogduin,                     
                     on behalf of Dr. Willem F. Duisenberg,                     
                     President of the European Central Bank,                     
at the symposium sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas
City
                     on "New challenges for monetary policy"                     
                   on 27 August 1999 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming                   
From the European perspective, the title of this year's Jackson Hole
symposium - "new challenges for monetary policy" - is particularly
appropriate. Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) in Europe is a unique project
and its consummation with the introduction of the single monetary policy on 1
January 1999 took place less than eight months ago. Today, given the time
available, I will not endeavour to review all the challenges which are raised
by EMU comprehensively. I shall have to be selective, largely focusing on the
primary objective of the Eurosystem, which is to maintain price stability in
the euro area. In this context, let me briefly explain our terminology, which
may perhaps not be known to everybody as yet. The "Eurosystem" is the name we
gave to the European Central Bank (ECB) and the currently eleven national
central banks of those countries which have introduced the euro. The "euro
area" comprises these eleven countries.
I should like to start with some observations on the objective and
limitations of monetary policy in the euro area. Owing to the successful
process of disinflation and convergence within Europe over the past decade,
the launch of the euro last January took place in an environment of price
stability that few observers would have predicted only a few years ago.
Consumers and firms are already reaping the benefits of this environment. The
relative price signals on which the efficiency of the market mechanism relies
are not obscured by volatility in the general level of prices. By avoiding
the costs and distortions inflation would impose on the economy, price
stability is contributing to the growth and employment potential of the euro
area.
This contribution is substantial. Unfortunately, it is all too easily taken
for granted. Memories of the still recent past relating to the consequences
of high and unstable inflation tend to fade rapidly. We are sometimes already
hearing the argument that, given that price stability has been achieved,
monetary policy should now be re-oriented away from its primary objective of
price stability towards other goals. One of the challenges facing the
Eurosystem is to maintain the support of the broad public constituency
necessary to resist these calls, which - as I hardly need to point out to
such a distinguished audience of central bankers and monetary economists -
are misguided and ultimately counter-productive. However, it can be said that
the situation is the same as that in the world of sports; winning a
championship and reaching the top is difficult, but staying there is even
harder.
The institutional framework for European monetary policy, as created by the
Maastricht Treaty (i.e. the Treaty on European Union, which has become part
of the Treaty establishing the European Community, or the EC Treaty, in
short) is well suited to meeting this challenge. Most importantly, the single
monetary policy has been clearly assigned the primary objective of
maintaining price stability in the euro area. To facilitate the achievement
of this goal, the ECB and the national central banks have been accorded a
high degree of institutional independence so as to protect monetary policy
decisions from undue external interference.
The Treaty imposes several duties and tasks on the ECB. However, there is no
doubt that the objective of price stability is over-riding. For example, the
Treaty stipulates - if I may quote - that the Eurosystem "without prejudice
to the objective of price stability, . shall support the general economic
policies in the Community, with a view to contributing to the achievement of
the objectives of the Community", which include "sustainable and non-
inflationary growth" and "a high level of employment".
Given the clear priority attached to the primary objective of price
stability, how does the ECB address these other Treaty obligations? Let me
make three points in this regard.
First, among economists and central bankers, there is overwhelming agreement
that there is no long-run trade-off between real activity and inflation.
Attempting to use monetary policy to raise real economic activity above its
sustainable level will, in the end, simply lead to ever higher inflation, but
not to faster economic growth. I am convinced that the best contribution
monetary policy can make to sustainable growth and employment in the euro
area is to maintain price stability in a credible and lasting manner,
allowing the considerable benefits of price stability to be reaped over the
medium term. This is the economic rationale underlying the EC Treaty and the
Eurosystem's monetary policy strategy.
Second, it is generally acknowledged that monetary policy does affect real
activity in the short run. Although the focus must always be on price
stability, in many cases the policy action required to maintain price
stability will also help sustain short-run economic and employment prospects.
The reduction of the Eurosystem's main refinancing rate on 8 April was a case
in point. Following the Asian and Russian financial crises last year, global
demand weakened. Weaker external demand led to a shift in the balance of
risks to price stability in the euro area towards the downside, as demand
pressures abated. As monetary indicators did not signal inflationary risks at
that time, the Governing Council of the ECB concluded that a cut of 50 basis
points in the main refinancing rate best served the maintenance of price
stability. This lower level of interest rates may also be supportive of real
activity and employment in the short-run. Our eyes must always be firmly
focused on the goal, on our goal, to maintain price stability in the medium
term. Our monetary policy does not explicitly aim at influencing the business
cycle. However, as said in many cases, the necessary monetary policy measures
to achieve our goal also tend, almost automatically, to work in the right
direction from a cyclical point of view.
This leads me to my third point. In situations where monetary policy might
face a short-term trade-off between adverse developments in real activity and
deviations from price stability, the over-riding priority accorded to
countering the latter must be made absolutely clear. Any ambiguity on this
point will simply endanger the credibility, and therefore the effectiveness,
of the monetary policy response. This does not mean that the policy action
must be draconian. The medium-term orientation of the Eurosystem's monetary
policy strategy permits a gradualist and measured response to previously
unforeseen threats to price stability, should this be regarded as
appropriate, depending on the nature of the threat. Such gradualism may help
to avoid the introduction of unnecessary uncertainty into the real economy.
Recognition and an understanding of these three central points are essential
for the implementation of a successful monetary policy. Communicating both
the objective and the limitations of monetary policy to the public is a vital
issue to which I will return later in my remarks. But it would be remiss at
this point if I did not address what is surely the greatest economic
challenge facing the euro area at present, namely the unacceptably high level
of unemployment. There is a broad consensus that unemployment in the euro
area is overwhelmingly structural in nature. Monetary policy cannot solve
this problem. National governments bear the main responsibility for
structural economic reforms. In particular, further reforms of the tax and
welfare systems are required in many EU countries in order to increase the
incentives to create new jobs and to accept them. Wage moderation can also
have a significant beneficial impact. Monetary policy makes its best
supportive contribution by providing the environment of price stability in
which structural reforms can work most effectively.
It should be recognised that the implementation of EMU has made it even more
urgent to improve the flexibility of labour and goods markets. In this
context, it would very likely be the wrong answer if governments were to try
to create a "social union", harmonising social security systems and standards
at a very high level. The ECB will continue to cajole governments into
implementing necessary and long overdue reforms, but the final hard decisions
- and I acknowledge that they are hard decisions, since the considerable
benefits of structural reform often only become apparent with time - lie with
the national authorities. In those countries where appropriate structural
reforms have been implemented and wage growth has been moderate, unemployment
is either low by euro area standards or is falling more rapidly. These
experiences offer important lessons for other countries in the euro area.
Fortunately, a broader awareness of the necessity of structural reforms
recently seems to be emerging in Europe. Of course, ultimately only sustained
action will count. The cyclical recovery that is underway is no substitute
for such action.
Thus far, I have largely discussed the goal of the single monetary policy.
How is this goal to be achieved? At the heart of the answer to this question
is the Eurosystem's monetary policy strategy. The strategy has two closely
related aspects. First, the strategy must structure the monetary policy-
making process in such a way that the Governing Council of the ECB is
presented with the information and analysis required to take appropriate
monetary policy decisions. Second, the strategy must ensure that policy
decisions, including the economic rationale on which they are based, can be
presented in a clear and coherent way to the public. The communication policy
as part of the strategy obviously has to be consistent with the structure of
the internal decision-making process.
In designing the Eurosystem's strategy, the Governing Council of the ECB
recognised the new circumstances faced by monetary policy in the euro area.
Where there were previously eleven open, generally small economies, there is
now one large, relatively closed single currency area. The challenges implied
by this transformation in the landscape of monetary policy are profound.
Relatively little is known as yet about the transmission mechanism of
monetary policy in the euro area after the transition to Monetary Union. One
important challenge for the Eurosystem is to obtain a better knowledge of the
structure and functioning of the euro area economy and the transmission
mechanism of monetary policy within it, so that policy actions can be
implemented accordingly. Together with experts in the national central banks,
the ECB has embarked on an intensive programme of analysis and research into
these issues.
One obvious problem related to the fact that the euro area did not exist as a
single currency area in the past regards the availability of statistical
data. Compared with national central banks, we do not have the same amount of
long historical time series of monetary and economic indicators, based on
harmonised statistical concepts, at our disposal. However, we have already
developed quite reliable estimates for a number of these historical series,
and the quality and availability of current statistics on the euro area has
increased significantly over the last few quarters, for example in the areas
of money and banking and balance of payments statistics, but also across a
wide range of economic statistics. This process of improving the quality and
the availability of statistical data covering the euro area will continue.
It would have clearly been unwise for the ECB to develop a strategy which
relies mechanically on the signals offered by a single indicator or forecast
in order to take monetary policy decisions. Indeed, such a simplistic
approach to monetary policy-making is unwise in all circumstances. Our
knowledge of the structure of the euro area economy and the indicator
properties of specific variables - although improving rapidly - is simply too
limited.
The primary objective of monetary policy has been quantified with the
publication of a definition of price stability, against which the Eurosystem
can be held accountable. This definition illustrates our aversion to both
inflation and deflation, since it defines price stability as annual increases
of below 2% in the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) for the euro
area. To maintain price stability according to this definition, monetary
developments are closely monitored against a quantitative reference value for
the broad benchmark aggregate, M3. In parallel, a broadly based assessment of
the outlook for price developments in the euro area is undertaken. This
assessment encompasses a wide range of indicator variables, including
inflation projections produced both inside and outside the Eurosystem. Using
all this information, the Governing Council comes to a decision on the level
of short-term interest rates that best serves the maintenance of price
stability over the medium term.
On the basis of this strategy, I am confident that the Governing Council has
taken - and will continue to take - appropriate monetary policy decisions.
The effectiveness of these policy decisions will depend, in large part, on
the credibility of the single monetary policy. Transparent and accountable
policy-making can help to build up a reputation and, hence credibility.
Transparency and accountability, in turn, rely on clear and effective
communications between the Eurosystem and the public.
In this regard, the Eurosystem faces an especially formidable task. As
mentioned earlier, the euro area currently consists of eleven different
sovereign nations, each with its own distinct monetary history and heritage.
With each policy announcement or Monthly Bulletin, the Eurosystem must thus
communicate with the public of eleven different countries and must speak in
all eleven different official languages of the European Union. Such a
situation is unprecedented. This diversity of language, history and culture
across the euro area raises further challenges for the ECB.
Over the years, each national central bank had developed its own strategy
and, linked to this, its own "monetary policy language" for communicating
with the public in the nation it served. This language reflected the unique
circumstances of the country in question. The process by which the public
learnt this monetary language from the statements and behaviour of the
national central bank was largely subconscious. Over time, the strategies and
the related language and conventions of monetary policy came to be so well
understood as to be almost second nature. In these circumstances, private
economic behaviour was shaped by the monetary policy environment.
Many of us have experienced the problem of trying to learn a second language
in adult life. This rarely comes as easily as learning your native tongue as
a child. It is certainly not a subconscious process, but rather one that
requires effort and perseverance. It is often difficult to overcome the
habits and conventions of one's first language, which are inevitably somewhat
at odds with those of a foreign tongue. Of course, it is easier to learn a
language that shares common roots with one's own. Nevertheless, to obtain any
degree of fluency, there is no alternative to long hours practising
pronunciation, studying grammar and learning vocabulary. Even then, the
idioms and slang of the new language are sometimes hard to follow. There are
no easy short cuts.
With the adoption of the euro last January, the public, financial markets and
policy-makers in the euro area have all had to get used to a new monetary
policy environment and have, thus, had to learn a new "monetary policy
language". The Eurosystem's monetary policy strategy has been designed, in
part, to make this learning process as straightforward as possible.
Continuity with the successful strategies of the national central banks prior
to Monetary Union was one of the guiding principles governing the selection
of the monetary policy strategy. Nevertheless, given the changed environment
for monetary policy, a new strategy with a new vocabulary had to be
developed, reflecting the unique and novel circumstances facing the
Eurosystem.
Some commentators have suggested that the Eurosystem simply adopt the
strategy used by another central bank or by a national central bank in the
past. Tellingly, such observers often suggest the strategy they know best:
Americans suggest using the Federal Reserve as a model; Britons, the Bank of
England; Germans, the Bundesbank. However, the Eurosystem cannot simply adopt
a strategy designed by another central bank for a different currency area
under different economic circumstances. A strategy that might have been
suitable in one situation may be quite inappropriate for the unique and novel
circumstances facing the Eurosystem, given the very different economic
structure and environment confronting it.
A key feature of the ECB's communication policy is the monthly press
conference given by the ECB's Vice-President and myself, usually immediately
following the first Governing Council meeting of each month. During these
press conferences, I make an introductory statement summarising the Council's
discussions and conclusions before answering questions from journalists. As
the statement is agreed, in substance, with all the Council members
beforehand it is similar to what others call minutes. The press conference
provides prompt information in an even-handed way, and it offers the
opportunity for immediate two-way communication. As far as I am aware, no
other central bank communicates with the public in such a prompt manner
immediately after its monetary policy meetings.
These press conferences are a tangible expression of the Eurosystem's
commitment to be open, transparent and accountable in its conduct of monetary
policy. In my view, our commitment to openness should not be in doubt.
However, ensuring that this openness translates into effective communications
continues to be a challenge. Journalists, financial markets and the public
are still learning the new strategy and language of monetary policy in the
euro area.
By its nature, the challenge of improving communications between the
Eurosystem and the public is two-sided. On the one hand, the ECB must use a
clear and transparent language consistent with the strategy it has adopted.
It must help the public understand the changes of emphasis and communication
necessitated by the new monetary policy environment in Europe. We have made
important progress in this regard over the last eight months, but I
acknowledge that we still have some way to go. The ECB must do its utmost to
be understood by its counterparts in the media that act as important
intermediaries to the public at large. By learning from one another, we can
improve the transparency, democratic accountability and effectiveness of the
single monetary policy.
Before concluding, I should like to add a brief comment on the likely future
enlargement of the European Union (EU) and, prospectively, the euro area.
Currently, the EU negotiates the accession of six countries to the EU. Once
the accession of new Member States is decided, these countries have to fulfil
the so-called convergence criteria, if they want to join the euro area. The
euro area can finally only be enlarged if the European Council, following an
assessment by the ECB and the European Commission, decides that further
Member States of the EU are ready to adopt the single currency. New countries
joining the euro area will be a challenge for us. For example, we will have
to integrate the respective economy fully in our area-wide analysis of
monetary, financial and other economic developments in the euro area.
Enlargement is a challenge we clearly welcome. I have no doubts that we can
master it, not least as the EC Treaty outlines a clear and transparent
procedure for countries wishing to join the euro area. In simple terms, this
can be viewed as involving three phases. First, a candidate country must join
the European Union, for which certain requirements must be met. Second, the
candidate is expected to join the new exchange rate mechanism, ERM II. Third,
as mentioned earlier, the country must fulfil the convergence criteria. In
addition to fiscal discipline and inflation control, these criteria include a
relatively low level of long-term interest rates and stable exchange rates.
Let me conclude. Monetary policy cannot solve all of the economic challenges
facing the euro area, in particular those concerning the urgent need to
reduce the high level of structural unemployment. National governments are
responsible for carrying out the required structural reforms. The Eurosystem
makes its best contribution to area-wide growth and employment prospects by
credibly focusing on the maintenance of price stability in the euro area.
I am confident that the monetary policy strategy adopted by the Governing
Council of the ECB last October has been successful - and the monetary policy
decisions that have been based on it over the last eight months - serve the
fulfilment of this objective. Nevertheless, we will not become complacent; on
the contrary, we will have to continue to invest substantially in analysing
the structure of the euro area economy, and in understanding the monetary
policy transmission mechanism and the information content of the various
monetary and economic indicators.
Monetary policy is most effective when it is credible. Transparent and
accountable policy-making can help to build up a reputation and credibility.
Effective direct communications with the public, including the financial
markets, other policy makers and the media requires that we speak with one
voice in an even-handed way with our diverse counterparties and audience.
Successfully refining our area-wide communications, aimed at making our
strategy, and the monetary policy based on it, transparent so that it can be
well understood by the large and varied population we serve, is one of the
challenges faced by the Eurosystem and, by implication, one of our
priorities.
                                       ***                                       
                           EMU AND BANKING SUPERVISION                           
                        Lecture by Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa                        
           Member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank           
           at the London School of Economics, Financial Markets Group           
                               on 24 February 1999                               
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Introduction
II. Institutional framework
III. Industry scenario
IV. Current supervision
V. Crisis management
VI. Conclusion
Tables
I. INTRODUCTION
1. I am speaking here, at the London School of Economics, only a few weeks
after one of the most remarkable events in the history of monetary systems:
the establishment of a single currency and a single central banking
competence for a group of countries which retain their sovereignty in many of
the key fields where the State exerts its power. To mint or print the
currency, to manage it and to provide the ultimate foundation of the public's
confidence in it has been, from the earliest times, a key prerogative of the
sovereign. "Sovereign" is indeed the name that was given in the past to one
currency. And a British Prime Minister not so long ago explained her
opposition to the idea of the single currency with the desire to preserve the
image of the Queen on the banknotes.
2. For centuries money has had two anchors: a commodity, usually gold; and
the sovereign, i.e. the political power. Less than 30 years after the last
bond to gold was severed (August 1971), the second anchor has also now been
abandoned. Although I personally think that political union in Europe is
desirable, I am aware that the present situation, in which the area of the
single currency is not a politically united one, is likely to persist for a
number of years. This means that we have given rise to an entirely new type
of monetary order. For the people, the success of this move will ultimately
depend on the ability of governments and political forces to build a
political union. For the central banker and for the users of the new
currency, the success will be measured by the quality of the currency itself,
and such quality will be measured in the first place in terms of price
stability. This is not only a requirement explicitly set by the Treaty of
Maastricht, it is also, in the opinion of most, the "new anchor" that purely
fiduciary currencies need after the gold anchor is abandoned.
3. My remarks, however, will focus on another, less fundamental but still
important novelty of the monetary constitution that has just come into
existence. It is the novelty of the abandonment of the coincidence between
the area of jurisdiction of monetary policy and the area of jurisdiction of
banking supervision. The former embraces the 11 countries that have adopted
the euro, while the latter remains national. Just as we have no precedent of
any comparable size of money disconnected from states, we have no precedent
for a lack of coincidence between the two public functions of managing the
currency and controlling the banks.
In the run-up to the euro this feature of the system was explored, and some
expressed doubts about its effectiveness. I will tonight examine the problems
of banking supervision in the euro area. The plan of my remarks is the
following. I will first review the existing institutional framework for the
prudential control of banks in EMU. I will then examine the likely scenario
for the European banking industry in the coming years. Against this
institutional and industry background, I shall then discuss the functioning
of, and the challenges for, banking supervision and central banking in the
euro area, both in normal circumstances and when a crisis occurs.
II. INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK
4. The origin and developments of modern central banks are closely linked to
key changes undergone by monetary systems over the past two centuries. Such
changes could, very sketchily, be summarised as follows. First, paper
currency established itself as a more convenient means of payment than
commodity currencies. Second, commercial bank money (bank deposits) spread as
a convenient substitute for banknotes and coins. Third, the quantity of money
was disconnected from the quantity of gold. Thus, a double revolution in the
technology of the payment system, the advent of banknotes and that of cheques
or giros, has shaped the functions that most central banks performed over
this century: monetary policy and prudential supervision. Man-made money made
monetary policy possible. The fact that a large, now a predominant, component
of the money stock was in the form of commercial bank money made banking
supervision necessary.
Ensuring confidence in the paper currency and, later, in the stability of the
relationship, one could say the exchange rate, between central bank and
commercial bank money, were twin public functions, and, in general, they were
entrusted to the same institution. Just as money has three well-known
economic functions - means of payment, unit of account and store of value -
so there are three public functions related to each of them. Operating and
supervising the payment system refers to money as a means of payment;
ensuring price stability relates to money as a unit of account and a store of
value; and pursuing the stability of banks relates to money as a means of
payment and a store of value. In each of the three functions commercial banks
have played, and still largely play, a crucial role.
In an increasing number of countries the original triadic task entrusted to
the central bank has now been abandoned in favour of a "separation approach",
according to which banking supervision has been assigned to a separate
institution. Following the recent adoption by the United Kingdom and
Luxembourg of the separation approach, only two of the 12 countries
represented in the Basle Committee on Banking Supervision (Italy and the
Netherlands) have the central bank as the only authority responsible for
banking supervision. In all systems, however, whether or not it has the task
of supervising the banks, the central bank is deeply involved with the
banking system precisely because the banks are primary creators of money,
providers of payment services, managers of the stock of savings and
counterparties of central bank operations. No central bank can ignore the
need to have a concrete and direct knowledge of "its" banking system, i.e.
the banking system that operates in the area of its monetary jurisdiction.
Personally, I have an intellectual attachment to, as well as a professional
inclination for, the central bank approach to banking supervision, due partly
to the fact that I spent most of my professional life in a central bank which
is also to this day the banking supervisor. Yet I can see, I think, the
arguments that have led a growing number of industrialised countries to
prefer the separation approach. Such arguments basically point to the
potential conflict between controlling money creation for the purpose of
price stability and for the purpose of bank stability. On the whole, I do not
think that one model is right and the other wrong. Both can function, and do
function, effectively; if inappropriately managed, both may fail to satisfy
the public interest for which banks are supervised.
5. Against this background, let me now describe the institutional framework
currently adopted by the Treaty. As my description will refer to the area in
which both the single market and the single currency are established, it will
not specially focus on the problems of the so-called "pre-in" countries,
including the United Kingdom.
The current institutional framework of EMU (i.e. the single market plus the
single currency) is a construct composed of two building blocks: national
competence and co-operation. Let me first briefly review the main aspects of
these two building blocks and then see how the Eurosystem relates to them.
First, national competence. In a market based on the minimum harmonisation
and the mutual recognition of national regulatory standards and practices,
the principle of "home country control" applies. According to this principle
every bank has the right to do business in the whole area using a single
licence, under the supervision, and following the rules, of the authority
that has issued the licence. The full supervisory responsibility thus belongs
to the "home country". This allows, inter alia, the certain identification of
the supervisor responsible for each institution acting as a counterparty to
the monetary policy operations of the Eurosystem. The only exception to this
principle - the "host country" competence for the supervision of liquidity of
foreign branches - is no longer justified now that the euro is in place;
hence it should soon be removed.
Second, co-operation. In a highly regulated industry such as banking, a
single market that retains a plurality of "local" (national) supervisors
requires close co-operation among supervisors to safeguard the public good:
namely, openness, competition, safety and soundness of the banking industry.
EU directives (the 1st and 2nd Banking Directives and the so-called BCCI
Directive) lay the foundations for such co-operation, but they do not contain
specific provisions or institutional arrangements to this end. They limit
themselves to stating the principle of co-operation among national
authorities and to removing obstacles to the exchange of information among
them.
6. How does the Eurosystem relate to this construction? Essentially in two
ways. First, the Treaty assigns to the Eurosystem the task to "contribute to
the smooth conduct of policies pursued by competent authorities relating to
the prudential supervision of credit institutions and the stability of the
financial system" (Article 105 (5)). Given the separation between monetary
and supervisory jurisdictions, this provision is clearly intended to ensure a
smooth interplay between the two. Second, the Treaty gives the Eurosystem a
twofold (consultative and advisory) role in the rule-making process.
According to Article 105 (4), the ECB must be consulted on any draft
Community and national legislation in the fields of banking supervision and
financial stability; and, according to Article 25 (1) of its Statute, the ECB
can provide, on its own initiative, advice on the scope and implementation of
the Community legislation in these fields. It should be borne in mind that
central banks are normally involved in the process of drawing up legislation
relating to, for example, regulatory standards, safety net arrangements and
supervision since this legislation contributes crucially to the attainment of
financial stability.
7. Two observations should be made about the institutional framework just
described. First, such an arrangement establishes a double separation between
central banking and banking supervision: not only a geographical, but also a
functional one. This is the case because for the euro area as a whole banking
supervision is now entrusted to institutions that have no independent
monetary policy functions. The separation approach that was chosen for EMU
has effectively been applied not only to the euro area as a whole, but to its
components as well. Indeed, even in countries where the competent authority
for banking supervision is the central bank, by definition this authority is,
functionally speaking, no longer a central bank, as it lacks the key central
banking task of autonomously controlling money creation.
The second observation is that the Treaty itself establishes (in Article 105
(6)) a simplified procedure that makes it possible, without amending the
Treaty, to entrust specific supervisory tasks to the ECB. If such a provision
were to be activated, both the geographical and the functional separation
would be abandoned at once. The fact that the Maastricht Treaty allows the
present institutional framework to be reconsidered without recourse to the
very heavy amendment procedure (remember that such procedure requires an
intergovernmental conference, ratification by national parliaments, sometimes
even a national referendum) is a highly significant indication that the
drafters of the Treaty clearly understood the anomaly of the double
separation and saw the potential difficulties arising from it. The simplified
procedure they established could be interpreted as a "last resort clause",
which might become necessary if the interaction between the Eurosystem and
national supervisory authorities turned out not to work effectively.
III. INDUSTRY SCENARIO
8. When evaluating the functioning of, and the challenges to, banking
supervision in the current institutional framework, two aspects should be
borne in mind. First, the advent of the euro increases the likelihood of the
propagation of financial stability problems across national borders. For this
reason a co-ordinated supervisory response is important at an early stage.
Second, the sources of banks' risks and stability problems depend on ongoing
trends that are not necessarily caused by the euro, but may be significantly
accelerated by it. On the whole, we are interested not so much in the effects
of EMU or the euro per se, as in the foreseeable developments due to all
factors influencing banking in the years to come.
9. It should be noted at the outset that most banking activity, particularly
in retail banking, remains confined to national markets. In many Member
States the number, and the market share, of banks that operate in a truly
nationwide fashion is rather small. Although banks' international operations
have increased, credit risks are still predominantly related to domestic
clients, and the repercussions of bank failures would be predominantly felt
by domestic borrowers and depositors.
10. Assessing the internationalisation of euro area banks is a complex task
because internationalisation can take a number of forms. One is via cross-
border branches and subsidiaries. Although large-scale entry into foreign
banking markets in Europe is still scarce, reflecting persisting legal,
cultural and conduct-of-business barriers (less than 10% on average in terms
of banking assets in the euro area; Table 1), there are significant
exceptions. The assets of the foreign branches and subsidiaries of German and
French banks account for roughly a third of the assets of their respective
domestic banking systems (Table 2). The Dutch banking system is also strongly
diversified internationally.
Another way to spread banking activity beyond national borders is
consolidation. Cross-border mergers or acquisitions still seem to be the
exception, although things have started to change. The recent wave of
"offensive" and "defensive" banking consolidation has mainly developed within
national industries, thus significantly increasing concentration,
particularly in the smaller countries (Table 3); it may be related not so
much to the direct impact of EMU as to globally intensified competition and
the need to increase efficiency.
In the coming years internationalisation is likely to increase, because, with
the euro, foreign entrants can now fund lending from their domestic retail
deposit base or from euro-denominated money and capital markets. The
relatively large number of foreign branches and subsidiaries already
established could be a sufficient base for an expansion of international
banking activity (Table 4) since a single branch, or a small number of
branches, may be sufficient to attract customers, especially when they are
served through direct banking techniques, such as telephone and Internet
banking. Also, the cross-border supply of services on a remote basis is
likely to spread as direct banking techniques develop. As to cross-border
mergers and acquisitions aimed either at achieving a "critical mass" for
wholesale financial markets, or at rapidly acquiring local expertise and
customers in the retail sector, they may remain scarce because the cost
savings from eliminating overlaps in the retail network are likely to be
limited and the managerial costs of integrating different structures and
corporate cultures are substantial.
11. However, banks' internationalisation does not provide the full picture of
the interconnections of banking systems. As "multi-product" firms, banks
operate simultaneously in many markets which have different dimensions:
local, national, continental (or European) and global. The advent of the euro
is likely to enlarge the market for many banking products and services to the
continental dimension; this will "internationalise" even those banks that
remain "national" in their branch networks and organisation.
The formation of the single money market in the euro area has largely taken
place already. The dispersion in the euro overnight rate across countries, as
reported by 57 so-called EONIA banks, fell in January from around 15 to 5
basis points. The variation between banks has been significantly greater than
between countries. The TARGET system has rapidly reached the dimension of
Fedwire, with a daily average value of payments of E1,000 billion, of which
between E300 and E400 are cross-border. The ever stronger interbank and
payment system links clearly increase the possibility of financial
instability spreading from one country to another. Through these links the
failure of a major bank could affect the standing of its counterparties in
the entire euro area. On the other hand, the deeper money market could absorb
any specific problem more easily than before.
As regards the capital markets, the effects of the euro will take more time
to manifest themselves, but are likely to be substantial. The single currency
offers substantial opportunities for both debt and equity issuers and
investors. The increase in the number of market participants operating in the
same currency increases the liquidity of the capital markets and reduces the
cost of capital. The low level of inflation and nominal interest rates and
diminishing public sector deficits are additional supporting factors of
capital market activity, especially private bond market activity which has so
far been relatively limited (Table 5). Banks will thus operate in
increasingly integrated capital markets and will be exposed to shocks
originating beyond their national borders.
As to corporations, they may concentrate their operations (treasury, capital
market and payment management) in a single or few "euro banks", while the
disappearance of national currencies may break links between firms and their
home country "house bank". This dissociation would make the domestic economy
indirectly sensitive to foreign banks' soundness, thus creating another
propagation channel of banking problems across countries.
12. When considering the industry scenario for the coming years, the
viewpoint has to be broadened beyond the impact of the euro. Rather than the
exclusive, or even primary, force for change, the euro is expected to be a
catalyst for pre-existing trends driven by other forces. The recent ECB
report prepared by the Banking Supervision Committee on "Possible effects of
EMU on the EU banking systems in the medium to long term" gives a
comprehensive analysis of such trends, which can be summarised as follows.
First, regulation: the industry has yet to feel the full impact of such
fundamental, but relatively recent, regulatory changes as those related to
the single market legislation. Second, disintermediation: other financial
intermediaries and institutional investors will grow relative to banks,
pushed by demographic and social changes, as well as by the increasing depth
and liquidity of the emerging euro area-wide capital market.
Disintermediation is expected to take the form of increasing recourse to
capital market instruments relative to bank loans by firms, and diminishing
investment in deposits by households relative to mutual funds and related
products. Third, information technology: bank products, operations and
processes are changing rapidly, while technology offers increasing
possibilities for dissociating the supply of a large number of services from
branches and face-to-face contact with customers. The current tendency in the
EU banking systems to reduce over-branching and over-staffing will grow
stronger.
These factors will increase competition, exert pressure on profitability and
oblige banks to reconsider their strategies. Such effects are already visible
throughout the EU. They produce changes in organisation, new products and
services, mergers, strategic alliances, co-operation agreements, etc. They
also involve strategic risks, because the pressure for profitability and some
losses of revenue due to the euro, for example from foreign exchange, may
push some banks to seek more revenue from unfamiliar business or highly risky
geographical areas. Inadequate implementation of new technologies or failure
to reduce excess capacity may also affect banks' long-term viability. In the
short term, the structural adaptation process could be made more difficult by
the combination of factors like the protracted financial difficulties of Asia
and Russia, or the preparations for the year 2000.
IV. CURRENT SUPERVISION
13. Against the background of the institutional framework and the industry
scenario I have outlined, let me now turn to the functioning of banking
supervision in the euro area. Two preliminary observations. First, the
objective of financial stability pursued by banking supervisors is only one
in a range of public interests, which also includes competition policy and
depositor and investor protection policy. Second, current supervision and
crisis management involve different situations and procedures and will
therefore be examined in sequence.
14. Starting with current supervision, let me consider banking regulation
first. As observed earlier, the regulatory platform for the euro area banking
industry combines harmonised rules with country-specific (non-harmonised, but
mutually recognised and hence potentially competing) rules.
The harmonised part of the platform includes most of the key prudential
provisions that have been developed in national systems over the years. More
than 20 years ago (1977), the 1st Banking Co-ordination Directive adopted a
definition of a credit institution and prescribed objective criteria for the
granting of a banking licence. In 1983 the first Directive on carrying out
supervision on a consolidated basis was approved, and in 1986 the rules
relating to the preparation of the annual accounts and the consolidated
accounts of banks were harmonised. In 1989 the 2nd Banking Co-ordination
Directive (which became effective on 1 January 1993) marked the transition
from piecemeal to comprehensive legislation, introducing, inter alia, the
principle of "home country control". A number of other specific directives
have subsequently addressed the main aspects of the regulatory framework -
notably, own funds, solvency ratios and large exposures. A Directive imposing
deposit guarantee schemes supplemented the legislation in support of
financial stability. All in all, the European Union, including the euro area,
now has a rather comprehensive "banking law" consistent with the Basle
Committee's rules and with the 1997 Core Principles of Banking Supervision.
The country-specific, non-harmonised, part of the platform is also quite
relevant and very diversified. It includes, among other things, the different
organisational arrangements for the conduct of banking supervision (central
bank, separate agency or a mixed arrangement); the tools used by banking
supervisors (e.g. supervisory reporting, on-site inspections); provisions for
the liquidation and restructuring of banks; and the definition and legal
protection of financial instruments and contracts. Even the key notion of a
regulated market is harmonised only to a very limited extent.
15. Such "neutrality" and "incompleteness" on the part of the EU legislator
with respect to key aspects that are normally incorporated in the regulatory
framework is a unique feature of EU banking regulations and is likely to
trigger a deregulatory process, pushed by competition among the national
systems and the different financial centres in the euro area, and beyond that
in the EU. Against the background of the increasing competition and other
changes in the banking industry, one can expect that the regulatory platform
will evolve in the years to come. Additional EU legislation may prove
necessary to complete and strengthen the harmonised part. One important part
of common legislation, namely the draft Directive on liquidation and re-
organisation measures for credit institutions, has not yet been adopted and,
indeed, has been stalled for years. This Directive is needed to bring legal
certainty to the framework for banking crisis management. In this regard, it
would be useful for the Eurosystem, if necessary, to be able to exclude
counterparties from the single monetary policy on prudential grounds. Also,
the non-harmonised part of the platform will come under pressure to converge,
as I have just mentioned, through the process of "regulatory competition".
Like any other rapidly changing industry, the banking sector will require
careful attention by regulators. As indicated earlier, the ECB will have the
possibility of contributing to the rule-making process through its advisory
tasks under Article 105 (4) of the Treaty and Article 25.1 of the Statute of
the ESCB.
16. On the whole, and taking a euro area perspective, the legislative-cum-
regulatory platform of the banking industry, although rather unusual and very
diversified in comparison with those of most currency jurisdictions, does not
seem to present loopholes or inconsistencies that may hamper the pursuit of
systemic stability. Seen from the point of view of the regulatory burden, it
is a light system. It will become even more so if competition among national
banking systems and financial centres encourages national regulators to free
their banks from regulatory burdens that are not required by the EU
Directives. Conversely, seen from the point of view of its flexibility, i.e.
how quickly it can adapt to new situations, it is, on the contrary, a heavy
system. This is the case both because the EU legislative process is slow
(three years or even longer may be needed to pass Directives) and, perhaps
more importantly, because many provisions are embodied in the Community
primary legislation (i.e. Directives) rather than in Community secondary
legislation (amendable through simpler comitology procedures).
The establishment of EMU does not seem to determine a need for revising the
pillars of the current legal framework. What seems to be necessary, however,
is a more flexible legislative procedure which allows for a faster and more
effective revision of Community legislation, whenever needed in relation to
market developments.
17. Let me now turn to the execution of banking supervision. It should
immediately be recalled that supervision, contrary to regulation, is a
national task, exercised by what the jargon of the Directives calls the
"competent authority". Since the euro area has adopted a separation approach
between supervisory and central banking functions, it is natural to examine
first the functioning of the "euro area supervisor" (i.e. the co-operative
system of national supervisors) and then turn to the tasks and needs of the
"euro area central banker" (i.e. the Eurosystem).
18. The euro area supervisor can be regarded as a rather peculiar entity
composed of national agencies working in three modes: stand-alone, bilateral
and multilateral. Let us briefly examine each of them.
The stand-alone mode is the one in which the supervisor exclusively operates
in the national (or even local) context. Today it is by far the most
predominant mode. In most cases, this approach is sufficient to achieve the
objectives of banking supervision because most banks in Europe are operating
in a context that does not even reach the nationwide market of the country of
origin. Such a decentralised model is even more effective because it allows
the efficient use of information that may not be available far from the
market in which the bank operates. That is why it is actually applied even
within countries. In Italy, for example, over 600 of the 900 licensed credit
institutions at end-1998 were entirely supervised by the Banca d'Italia
branch of the town in which the bank is licensed.
The bilateral mode involves co-operation between two supervisory agencies. It
is used for cross-border supervision of the same type of financial
institutions, such as credit institutions, or the supervision of different
types of financial institutions operating in the same market, such as credit
institutions and securities firms. The instrument that has been devised to
organise bilateral co-operation between banking supervisors is the Memorandum
of Understanding (MoU). With the implementation of the 2nd Banking Co-
ordination Directive, the Member States began to negotiate extensively MoUs
in order to establish the necessary co-operation between "home" and "host
country" authorities to supervise efficiently institutions that have cross-
border activities or foreign country establishments.
By the end of 1997, 78 bilateral MoUs had been signed between the EEA banking
supervisory authorities. The key aims of MoUs are to establish a regular
exchange of information between national supervisory authorities. While the
"gateways" for the exchange of information have been laid down in Community
legislation, MoUs provide a practical framework for communication to be
carried out between supervisors. Moreover, MoUs define procedures and
reciprocal commitments between pairs of EU supervisors related to the various
parts of the supervisory process, such as establishment procedures and on-
site examinations.
Finally, the multilateral mode is the one in which a group of supervisors
works collectively as, say, a single consolidated supervisor. Such a mode is
required when the problems involved are area-wide. They may be area-wide for
a number of reasons with regard to the institutions, or groups, involved:
their dimension; their linkages with a number of different markets in various
countries; the role they play in the payment system or in other "systemic"
components of the market, etc. Multilateral co-operation can also enhance the
quality of supervision by examining common macroeconomic influences on the
banking system and common trends in the financial system that may not be
revealed from the national perspective only.
Today, the Banking Supervision Committee is the key forum for multilateral
co-operation. It is composed of representatives of the banking supervisory
authorities of the EU countries, either forming part of the respective NCB or
separate bodies. The Banking Supervision Committee's main functions are the
promotion of a smooth exchange of information between the Eurosystem and
national supervisory authorities and co-operation among EU supervisory
authorities. Another forum for dealing with the requirements of the
multilateral mode is the Groupe de Contact, a group of EU banking supervisory
authorities which, for many years, has discussed individual banking cases in
a multilateral way, but at a lower organisational level than the high-level
Banking Supervision Committee.
19. So far, the need to develop the multilateral mode has been relatively
limited, as the emergence of a single banking market in the European Union
has been slow and the euro was not yet in place. Thus, the fact that the
multilateral mode has not gone, for the moment, beyond periodic discussions
among supervisors and occasional industry-wide analyses should not be a cause
for concern.
I am convinced, however, that in the future the needs will change and the
multilateral mode will have to deepen substantially. Over time such a mode
will have to be structured to the point of providing the banking industry
with a true and effective collective euro area supervisor. It will have to be
enhanced to the full extent required for banking supervision in the euro area
to be as prompt and effective as it is within a single nation.
There are no legal impediments to that. The existing legislation, whether
Community or national, permits all the necessary steps to be made.
Information can be pooled; reporting requirements and examination practices
can be developed and standardised; common databases can be created; joint
teams can be formed; and analyses of developments across the whole banking
system can be conducted. The Community legislation providing for the
unconstrained exchange of confidential information between supervisors does
not distinguish between bilateral and multilateral co-operation, but the
common interpretation is that it covers both modes. It will be the task of
the Banking Supervision Committee, for its part, to develop the multilateral
mode among EU banking supervisors.
20. If the above concerns primarily the euro area supervisor, what about the
euro area central banker, i.e. the Eurosystem? The euro area central banker
has neither direct responsibility for supervising banks nor for bank
stability. It is, however, no stranger in this land. It has a vital interest
in a stable and efficient banking industry; it is, therefore, keen to see its
action complemented with an effective conduct of the supervisory functions by
the competent authorities; it needs a clear and precise knowledge of the
state of the euro area's banking industry as a whole and of its major
individual players; and it may have a role to play, as we shall see, in the
management of crises.
For the Eurosystem, natural reference models are provided by the central
banks of countries that apply the separation approach, for example: Germany
before the euro; the United Kingdom after the creation of the Financial
Services Authority; or Japan. In all these cases the central bank has a well-
developed expertise in the micro and macro-prudential field; each
distinctively plays a role in the macro-prudential field by addressing
threats to the stability of the banking system and analysing the soundness of
the structural features of the system. For their own purposes, these central
banks also have precise and comprehensive information about the banks in
their respective country. This is obtained either from performing practical
supervisory duties, as in the case of the Bank of Japan or the Bundesbank; or
from the national supervisory authority; or through direct contacts with the
banking industry, as in the case of the Bank of England.
The Banking Supervision Committee is in a good position to co-operate with
the Eurosystem in the collection of information. Indeed, the so-called BCCI
Directive has removed the legal obstacles to the transmission of confidential
information from competent supervisory authorities to "central banks and
other bodies with a similar function in their capacity as monetary
authorities". This includes national central banks and the ECB. Of course,
the provision of supervisory information is voluntary and its development
will have to be based on an agreed view of the central banking requirements
the Eurosystem will have in this field.
V. CRISIS MANAGEMENT
21. In normal circumstances central banking and prudential supervision have
an arm's length distance between them. In crisis situations, however, they
need to act closely together, often in co-operation with other authorities as
well. Charles Goodhart and Dirk Schoenmaker have made here at the London
School of Economics a valuable contribution to analysing the handling of
major banking problems in the history of industrial countries. One of their
conclusions is that, in most instances, central banks have indeed been
involved. Banking problems are so close to monetary stability, payment system
integrity and liquidity management that this finding hardly comes as a
surprise. The advent of the euro will not, by itself, change this state of
affairs.
22. When discussing crisis management, it should not be forgotten that, while
central banks have a direct and unique role to play when the creation of
central bank money is involved, this represents just one category of
emergency action. Another category refers to the injection - by politically
liable Finance Ministries - of taxpayers' money into ailing or insolvent
credit institutions. There is also a third, market-based, category,
consisting of the injection of private money by banks or other market
participants. These three typologies of emergency action all require the
involvement of policy-makers, but they must not be mixed up when evaluating
the existing arrangements. Therefore, before discussing the much debated
question of the lender-of-last-resort, let me briefly comment on the two,
probably less controversial cases where central bankers are not the providers
of extra funds.
23. First, the "private money solution". This market-based approach is
clearly the preferable option, not just to save public funds and avoid
imbalances in public finances, but also to reduce the moral hazard problem
generated by public assistance to ailing institutions. Indeed, policy-makers
are increasingly aware that the expectations of a helping hand can increase
financial institutions' risk appetite in the first place. However, even when
a market-based solution is possible, on the grounds of private interest,
private parties may not be able to reach a solution for lack of information
or co-ordination. Public authorities have therefore an active role to play
for the market solution to materialise. The recent rescue package co-
ordinated by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to prevent the LTCM hedge
fund from collapsing is a good example of public intervention being used to
achieve a private solution.
Acting as a "midwife" in brokering a private sector deal is not the only
example of managing crises without injecting public funds. Banking
supervisors have at their disposal a number of tools to intervene at the
national level to limit losses and prevent insolvency when a bank faces
difficulties. These tools include special audits, business restrictions and
various reorganisation measures.
In the euro area, national supervisors and central banks will continue to be
the key actors in the pursuit of market-based solutions to crises. The
Eurosystem, or the Banking Supervision Committee, would become naturally
involved whenever the relevance of the crisis required it.
24. Second, the "taxpayers' money solution". Taxpayers have been forced to
shoulder banks' losses in the past, when public authorities felt that otherwise
the failure of a large portion of a country's banking system or of a single
significant institution would have disrupted financial stability and caused
negative macroeconomic consequences. In such instances banks have been taken
over by the state, or their bad assets have been transferred to a separate
public entity to attract new private investment in the sound part of the
otherwise failed banks. The US savings & loans crisis of the 1980s, the
banking crises in Scandinavia in the early 1990s and the current banking crises
in Japan and some East-Asian countries are examples of system-wide insolvency
problems that have triggered taxpayers' support. Crйdit Lyonnais and Banco di
Napoli are recent examples of public support to individual insolvency problems.
The introduction of the euro leaves crisis management actions involving
taxpayers' money practically unaffected. The option of injecting equity or
other funds remains available for the Member States, since these operations
are not forbidden by the Treaty. Nevertheless, the European Commission will
be directly involved in scrutinising and authorising such actions, since any
state aid must be compatible with the Community's competition legislation.
This happened, for example, in the cases of Banco di Napoli and Crйdit
Lyonnais.
The handling of solvency crises is not within the competence of the national
central banks nor that of the ECB, although national central banks are likely
to be consulted, as they have been in the past.
25. Third, the "central bank money solution". This is the lender-of-last-
resort issue that has brought the Eurosystem under vigorous criticism by
distinguished academics and the IMF's Capital Markets Division of the
Research Department. The criticism has been that the alleged absence of a
clear and transparent mechanism to act in an emergency raises doubts in the
markets about the ability of the Eurosystem to handle crisis situations. It
is said that the uncertainty generated by the present arrangements would
entail new risks, including the possibility of investors requiring an
additional risk premium at times of financial market volatility and,
ultimately, of the credibility of EMU being damaged. Two examples of these
concerns deserve an explicit mention. The IMF "Report on Capital Markets",
September 1998, stated that "it is unclear how a bank crisis would be handled
under the current institutional framework .which is not likely to be
sustainable". Similarly, the first report of the CEPR (Centre for Economic
Policy Research) on monitoring the ECB entitled "The ECB: Safe at Any Speed?"
expressly suggested that the Eurosystem lacks crisis management capacity and
is too rigid to pass the A-Class test to keep the vehicle on the road at the
first steep turn in financial market conditions in Europe.
26. My response to this criticism is threefold. To my mind, the criticism
reflects a notion of lender-of-last-resort operations that is largely
outdated; it underestimates the Eurosystem's capacity to act; and, finally,
it represents too mechanistic a view of how a crisis is, and should be,
managed in practice.
27. The notion of a central bank's lender-of-last-resort function dates back
more than 120 years, to the time of Bagehot. This notion refers to emergency
lending to institutions that, although solvent, suffer a rapid liquidity
outflow due to a sudden collapse in depositors' confidence, i.e. a classic
bank run. A bank could be exposed to depositors' panic even if solvent
because of the limited amount of bank liquidity and an information asymmetry
between the depositors and the bank concerning the quality of bank's assets
that do not have a secondary market value.
Nowadays and in our industrial economies, runs may occur mainly in textbooks.
They have little relevance in reality because, since Bagehot, many antidotes
have been adopted: deposit insurance, the regulation of capital adequacy and
large exposures, improved licensing and supervisory standards all contribute
to the preservation of depositors' confidence and minimise the threat of a
contagion from insolvent to solvent institutions.
A less unlikely case is a rapid outflow of uninsured interbank liabilities.
However, since interbank counterparties are much better informed than
depositors, this event would typically require the market to have a strong
suspicion that the bank is actually insolvent. If such a suspicion were to be
unfounded and not generalised, the width and depth of today's interbank
market is such that other institutions would probably replace (possibly with
the encouragement of the public authorities as described above) those which
withdraw their funds. It should be noted, in this respect, that the emergence
of the single euro money market lowers banks' liquidity risk, because the
number of possible sources of funds is now considerably larger than in the
past.
Given all of these contingencies, the probability that a modern bank is
solvent, but illiquid, and at the same time lacks sufficient collateral to
obtain regular central bank funding, is, in my view, quite small. The
textbook case for emergency liquidity assistance to individual solvent
institutions has, as a matter of fact, been a most rare event in industrial
countries over the past decades.
28. What if this rare event were nevertheless to occur and cause a systemic
threat? The clear answer is that the euro area authorities would have the
necessary capacity to act. This is not only my judgement, but also that of
the Eurosystem, whose decision-making bodies have, as you can imagine,
carefully discussed the matter. I am not saying that we are, or shall be,
infallible; no one can claim such a divine quality. I am saying that there
are neither legal-cum-institutional, nor organisational, nor intellectual
impediments to acting when needed. In stating this, I am aware that central
banks may be the only source of immediate and adequate funds when a crisis
requires swift action, while solvency remains an issue and failure to act
could threaten the stability of the financial system.
In these circumstances the various national arrangements would continue to
apply, including those concerning the access of central banks to supervisors'
confidential information. As is well known, such arrangements differ somewhat
from country to country.
29. The criticism I have referred to also underestimates the Eurosystem's
capacity to act. To the extent that there would be an overall liquidity
effect that is relevant for monetary policy or a financial stability
implication for the euro area, the Eurosystem itself would be actively
involved.
The Eurosystem is, of course, well equipped for its two collective decision-
making bodies (the Board and the Council) to take decisions quickly whenever
needed, whether for financial stability or for other reasons. This readiness
is needed for a variety of typical central bank decisions, such as the
execution of concerted interventions or the handling of payment system
problems. Indeed, it has already been put to work during the changeover
weekend and in the first few weeks of this year.
A clear reassurance about the capacity to act when really needed should be
sufficient for the markets. Indeed, it may even be advisable not to spell out
beforehand the procedural and practical details of emergency actions. As
Gerry Corrigan once put it, maintaining "constructive ambiguity" in these
matters may help to reduce the moral hazard associated with a safety net. I
know of no central bank law within which the lender-of-last-resort function
is explicitly defined.
The question of who acts within the Eurosystem should also be irrelevant for
the markets, given that any supervised institution has an unambiguously
identified supervisor and national central bank. As to the access to
supervisory information, the lack of direct access by the Eurosystem should
not be regarded as a specific flaw of the euro area's institutional
framework, as has been frequently argued, since this situation also exists at
the national level wherever a central bank does not carry out day-to-day
supervision.
30. Finally, the criticism reflects an overly mechanistic view of how a
crisis is, and should be, managed in practice. Arguing in favour of fully
disclosed, rule-based policies in order to manage crises successfully and,
hence, maintain market confidence, is almost self-contradictory. Emergency
situations always contain unforeseen events and novel features, and
emergency, by its very nature, is something that allows and even requires a
departure from the rules and procedures adopted for normal times or even in
the previous crisis. Who cares so much about the red light when there is two
metres of snow on the road? As for transparency and accountability, these two
sacrosanct requirements should not be pushed to the point of being
detrimental to the very objective for which a policy instrument is created.
Full explanations of the actions taken and procedures followed may be
appropriate ex post, but unnecessary and undesirable ex ante.
31. So far, I have focused on the provision of emergency liquidity to a bank.
This is not the only case, however, in which central bank money may have to
be created to avoid a systemic crisis. A general liquidity "dry-up" may
reflect, for example, a gridlock in the payment system or a sudden drop in
stock market prices. The actions of the Federal Reserve in response to the
stock market crash of 1987 is an often cited example of a successful central
bank operation used to prevent a dangerous market-wide liquidity shortfall.
This kind of action is close to the monetary policy function and has been
called the "market operations approach" to lending of last resort. In such
cases, liquidity shortfalls could be covered through collateralised intraday
or overnight credit, or auctioning extra liquidity to the market. The
Eurosystem is prepared to handle this kind of market disturbance.
VI. CONCLUSION
32. In my remarks this evening, I have looked at the euro area as one that
has a central bank which does not carry out banking supervision. This would
be normal, because in many countries banking supervision is not a task of the
central bank. What is unique is that the areas of jurisdiction of monetary
policy and of banking supervision do not coincide. This situation requires,
first of all, the establishment of smooth co-operation between the Eurosystem
and the national banking supervisors, as is the case at the national level
where the two functions are separated. The most prominent reason for this is,
of course, the scenario where the provision of liquidity from the central
bank has to be made in a situation that is generated by problems of interest
to the supervisor. But beyond that, I do not know any country in which the
central bank is not very closely interested in the state of health of the
banking system, irrespective of its supervisory responsibilities.
33. In my view, we should move as rapidly as possible to a model in which the
present division of the geographical and functional jurisdiction between
monetary policy and banking supervision plays no significant role. I do not
mean necessarily a single authority or a single set of prudential rules.
Rather I mean that the system of national supervisors needs to operate as
effectively as a single authority when needed. While the causes of banking
problems are often local or national, the propagation of problems may be
area-wide. The banking industry is much more of a system than other financial
institutions.
34. I am clearly aware that we are far from having a common supervisory
system. But since the euro has just been launched and will last, we have to
look in prospective terms at what needs to be set in place. There is no
expectation, at least to my mind, that the division of responsibility in the
euro area between the central bank and the banking supervisory functions
should be abandoned. Although the Treaty has a provision that permits the
assignment of supervisory tasks to the ECB, I personally do not rely on the
assumption that this clause will be activated. What I perceive as absolutely
necessary, however, is that co-operation among banking supervisors, which is
largely voluntary but which finds no obstacles in the existing Directives or
in the Treaty, will allow a sort of euro area collective supervisor to emerge
that can act as effectively as if there were a single supervisor. This is
desirable in the first instance to render the supervisory action more
effective against the background of current and future challenges and,
second, to assist the Eurosystem in the performance of its basic tasks.
TABLES
Table 1. Market share of branches and subsidiaries of foreign
credit institutions as % of total domestic assets, 1997
From EEA countries            From third countries         TOTAL
Branches      Subsidiaries      Branches      Subsidiaries
AT          0.7             1.6             0.1             1.0           3.4
BE          9.0             19.2            6.9             1.2          36.3
DE          0.9             1.4             0.7             1.2           4.2
ES          4.8             3.4             1.6             1.9          11.7
FI          7.1              0               0               0            7.1
FR          2.5              NA             2.7             NA            9.8
IR          17.7            27.8            1.2             6.9          53.6
IT          3.6             1.7             1.4             0.1           6.8
NL          2.3             3.0             0.5             1.9           7.7
SE          1.3             0.1             0.1             0.2           1.7
UK          22.5            1.0            23.0             5.6          52.1
Source: ECB report "Possible effects of EMU on the EU banking
systems in the medium to long term" (February 1999).
Table 2. Assets of branches and subsidiaries of domestic credit
institutions in foreign countries
as % of total domestic assets, 1997
In EEA countries              In third countries          TOTAL
Branches      Subsidiaries      Branches     Subsidiaries
AT          2.6              NA             3.7             NA            NA
DE          12.0            7.3             7.8            0.9           27.9
ES          5.5             1.4             2.1            5.9           14.9
FI          5.9             0.3             6.6            0.3           13.1
FR          9.1             6.9             9.4            3.8           29.2
IR          8.3             14.9            1.3            10.1          34.6
IT          7.2             2.7             3.8            1.5           15.2
SE          7.2              NA             5.4             NA            NA
Source: ECB report "Possible effects of EMU on the EU banking
systems in the medium to long term" (February 1999).
Table 3. Concentration: Assets of the five biggest credit
institutions as % of total assets
1985            1990           1997
AT               35.8            34.6           48.3
BE               48.0            48.0           57.0
DE                NA             13.9           16.7
ES               38.1            34.9           43.6
FI               51.7            53.5           77.8
FR               46.0            42.5           40.3
IE               47.5            44.2           40.7
IT               20.9            19.1           24.6
NL               69.3            73.4           79.4
SE               60.2            70.02           89.7
UK                NA              NA            28.0
Source: ECB report "Possible effects of EMU on the EU banking
systems in the medium to long term" (February 1999).
Table 4. Number of branches and subsidiaries of foreign credit
institutions, 1997
From EEA countries             From third countries          TOTAL
Branches      Subsidiaries      Branches      Subsidiaries
AT            6              20               2              11             39
BE           25              16              15              15             71
DE           46              31              31              45            153
ES           33              21              20               6             80
FI            9               0               0               0             9
FR           46              118             43              98            305
IR           18              21               3               7             49
IT           36               4              17               4             61
NL           11               8              11              19             49
SE           14               0               3               1             18
UK           106             18              149             114           387
Source: ECB report "Possible effects of EMU on the EU banking
systems in the medium to long term" (February 1999).
Table 5. Private non-financial enterprises' bonds, credit
institutions' bonds and government bonds outstanding as % of GDP,
1997
Private            Credit          Government
non-financial      institutions'        bonds
bonds              bonds
AT            2.7                31.1             30.6
BE            10.0               38.3             111.0
DE            0.1                54.6             37.6
ES            2.6                4.5              52.9
FI            3.7                7.1              35.5
IE            0.01               1.6              32.2
IT            1.6                19.4             100.4
NL             NA                43.1             53.4
SE            3.6                38.6             46.5
Source: ECB report "Possible effects of EMU on the EU banking
systems in the medium to long term" (February 1999).
                          Euro and European integration                          
                   Speech delivered by Eugenio Domingo Solans,                   
         Member of the Governing Council and the Executive Board of the         
                             European Central Bank,                             
            at the "Euro and Denmark" exhibition in Aalborg, Denmark,            
                              on 10 September 1999                              
INTRODUCTION
It is a real pleasure for me to participate in the "Euro and Denmark"
exhibition in Aalborg. It is the first time since my appointment as a member
of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank (ECB) in May 1998 that I
have had the opportunity to speak in Denmark. Thank you for your invitation
and for asking me to share my views on the euro and on European integration
with investors and experts of this "pre-in" country.
I should like to refer to two main topics. First, and more extensively, allow
me to explain the ECB's view and my own view on the role of the euro as an
international currency. After this I intend to make some brief comments on
the key role that the euro and the Eurosystem are playing in the process of
European economic integration.
Before I begin, I should like to add that it goes without saying that the
institutional position of the ECB - and therefore my own official position -
concerning Denmark's entry to the euro area is one of strict neutrality. This
is an issue which has to be decided by the Danish people, whenever and in
whatever way they deem appropriate.
THE EURO AS AN INTERNATIONAL CURRENCY
The three basic functions of the euro
Every currency fulfils three functions: store of value, medium of exchange
and unit of account. Concerning the first function (store of value), the euro
is used and will increasingly be used as an investment and financing currency
by market players, and as a reserve currency by public authorities. Regarding
the second function of money (medium of exchange), the euro is used and will
increasingly be used as a payment or vehicle currency for the exchange of
goods and services and for currency exchange itself. It will also have an
official use as an intervention currency. Finally, as regards the third
function of any currency (unit of account), the euro is used and will
increasingly be used by economic agents as a pricing or quotation currency
and as a pegging currency by the authorities responsible for exchange rate
issues.
Let me give you some information about the present use of the euro in each of
these areas. I shall first refer to the private use of the euro, after which
I shall consider its official public usage.
The euro as a store of value
The available information seems to confirm that the euro already plays a
significant role as an investment and financing currency in international
financial markets. Without going into precise details (1), regarding the
international debt securities market (money market instruments, bills and
bonds), it can be said that in the first two quarters of 1999 net
international issues denominated in euro amounted to EUR 83.9 billion,
compared with EUR 74 billion for the US dollar and EUR 50.9 billion for
former euro area national currencies and ECUs during the same period of 1998.
In other words, in the first two quarters of 1999 net international issues of
debt securities denominated in euro were 13.4% higher than those denominated
in US dollars, and 64.8% higher than those denominated in former euro area
national currencies and ECUs issued during the same period of last year.
With regard to equity markets, the weight of euro area stock exchanges in
terms of capitalisation ranks a clear second, far behind the United States.
As to the banking sector, the latest data show that, at the end of March
1999, above 40% of deposits and loans vis-а-vis non-residents were
denominated in euro, with the share of the US dollar almost as high.
The euro as a medium of exchange
As for the second function of money (medium of exchange), the euro needs more
time to develop as a payment currency for goods and services in international
trade and as a vehicle currency in the foreign exchange markets. Although no
precise data are available at this stage, the value of world exports
denominated in euro is not likely to differ significantly from that of euro
area exports. By contrast, the value of world exports settled in US dollars
is nearly four times as high as that of US exports. This difference 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 is the case with the US dollar.
The euro as a unit of account
The use of the euro as a unit of account (its third general function) is
closely linked to its use for the other two main functions. The use of a
currency as a unit of account is, in a way, the basis for its use as a store
of value or as a medium of exchange. The value stored in euro, or the
payments made in euro, will tend to be recorded in euro. Therefore, we can
conclude that the euro is playing an ever larger role as a unit of account
for all the financial assets linked to the use of the euro as an investment
and financing currency, and has a much less relevant role as a standard for
pricing goods and services, owing to the widespread use of the US dollar as a
payment and vehicle currency in international trade. The convenience of using
a single standard for pricing commodities in the international markets,
allowing traders to make direct comparisons between prices, makes it
difficult for the euro to acquire a significant role in this respect. We can
conclude that the development of the euro as a unit of account will follow
the pace at which the issuers or suppliers of assets, goods or services
priced or quoted in euro obtain a predominant position in the international
markets.
The official use of the euro
The euro also has official uses as reserve, intervention and pegging
currency, all three functions being strongly interrelated in most cases.
With regard to its official use, the euro is currently the second most
international currency after the US dollar, this being a legacy of the former
euro area national currencies.
Compared with the former euro area national currencies, there has been a
technical decline in the share of the euro as a reserve (and, therefore, as
an intervention) currency, mainly owing to the fact that such former national
currencies became domestic assets within the euro area. However, there are
good reasons to expect an increase in international public use of the euro as
a reserve and intervention 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, FYROM [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.
The position of the Eurosystem concerning the international role of the euro
As a general conclusion stemming from the previous analysis of the use of the
euro in the world economy, we can affirm that the euro is the second most
widely used currency, behind the US dollar and ahead of the Japanese yen. The
private use of the euro as an investment and financing currency and its
official use as a reserve, intervention and pegging currency are increasing
rapidly, while it is developing at a slower pace as a payment currency in the
exchange of goods and services. The use of the euro as a unit of account is
linked to its use as store of value and a medium of exchange.
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, which will take place, without a
doubt.
Factors determining the importance of the euro in the world economy
We understand that the euro fulfils the necessary conditions to become 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 generally tends to lead to
centralisation around one or several 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 stability of the currency and the credibility of the ECB
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 monetary policy strategy of the ECB. 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.
In the global economy the transmission of financial crises by means of
different mechanisms (devaluations of weak currencies, subsequent increases
in interest rates, etc.) is frequently mentioned. Less is said about the
spillover or transmission of positive economic circumstances, such as
stability. The Eurosystem will "export" stability to the rest of the world
economy, and not only in the case of those countries which decide to tie
their currencies, formally or otherwise, to the euro (through the ERM II or
other arrangements). In a global economy the euro area cannot be an island of
stability, but it can transmit its stability to the rest of the world economy
as the links between regions increase.
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, not necessarily a strong euro.
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.
The 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 in relation to the operation of the Eurosystem.
The "habitat" of the euro
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. In
addition to quality, quantity is required, as suggested by the example of the
reduced degree of international use of the Swiss franc in relation to other
stable currencies, such as the US dollar or the Deutsche
Mark until 1998.
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 Eurostat.
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 degree of openness of an economic area is also a relevant factor as
regards the international role of its currency. In this respect the euro area
is more open than the United States or Japan, with a percentage of external
trade of around 25.8% of GDP, compared with 19.6% for the United States and
17.9% in the case of Japan (data from Eurostat for 1997). However, a euro
area consisting of the 15 countries of the European Union would be more
closed, by the mere arithmetic fact that the transactions with the present
pre-ins would become domestic transactions, resulting in a coefficient of
openness of 19.4%, similar to that of the United States. Clearly, the size
and the degree of openness are parameters that move in opposite directions:
the larger the euro area, the smaller its degree of openness to other
countries.
The financial dimension of the euro
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. Compared with a stock
market capitalisation of EUR 3,655 billion in the euro area in 1998, the
United States presents a figure almost four times this amount (EUR 13,025
billion). Japan ranks third, with EUR 2,091 billion. There would be a marked
difference if one were to include all 15 countries of the European Union,
since the stock exchange capitalisation would increase to EUR 6,081 billion.
Although these figures 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 ROLE OF THE EURO AND THE EUROSYSTEM IN THE PROCESS OF            
                              EUROPEAN INTEGRATION                              
The euro as a catalyst for European integration
The euro, the Eurosystem's monetary policy and, in general, the activity of
the ECB and the Eurosystem will play a key role in the integration of
European financial markets and all markets in general. We can say that the
euro will act as a catalyst for European economic integration.
Monetary and financial integration
The integration of the European money markets relies, of course, on the
existence of a single system for refinancing the banks in the euro area, that
is to say on the common monetary policy. However, it also relies technically
on a system of instantaneous data transfer and on the new common payment
system, TARGET, enabling real-time gross settlement. Thanks to the smooth
operation of the information, communication and payment systems, a common
monetary policy is realistic and the integration of the markets can take
place. Such integration will, in turn, involve greater liquidity and further
development of the financial markets.
A specific channel through which the monetary policy of the ECB and the
TARGET system can have a direct impact on the development of the financial
markets of the euro area is the requirement to have guarantees or collateral
for operations with the ECB. This requirement for adequate collateral can
stimulate the process of loan securitisation, especially in the case of the
banking institutions of certain financial systems. The underlying assets can
be used across borders, which means that a banking institution in a country
belonging to the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) can receive funds
from its national central bank by pledging assets located in other countries,
which is also relevant from the perspective of the integration of the
financial markets of the area.
The trend towards further integration of the European financial markets,
accompanied by increased use of the euro as a vehicle for international
investment, should logically follow a process which would start in the short-
term money market, subsequently be expanded into the longer-term money market
and finally extend to the public and private bond and equity markets. In the
short term there must be a tendency for the differentials in money market
interest rates to be eliminated, as the functioning of the market improves,
while in the long-term securities markets - both public and private, of
course - interest rates will always include a risk premium linked to the
degree of solvency of the country (deficit and public debt, commitments on
pensions), or to the credit risk of the private issuer, and to the liquidity
of the securities.
Economic integration Monetary and financial integration stemming from the
euro and the activity of the Eurosystem will affect the operation of the
European single 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, leads to joining the euro area, once certain
economic conditions (the so-called convergence criteria) are fulfilled.
The case of Denmark, as you will know better than I, constitutes an accepted
exception to the general rule, formalised in Protocol No. 8 on Denmark of the
Treaty on European Union signed in Maastricht on 7 February 1992, and in the
so-called "Decision concerning certain problems raised by Denmark on the
Treaty on European Union" of 11 and 12 December 1992, which contains the
notification from Denmark that it would not participate in the third stage of
the European Economic and Monetary Union.
However, the Danish krone was in fact pegged to the Deutsche Mark from 1982
until the end of 1998. Furthermore, since 1 January 1999 it has been
participating in ERM II with a rather narrow fluctuation band of ±2.25%, and
effectively has had an almost fixed exchange rate vis-а-vis the euro.
Therefore, the Danish monetary policy, through this exchange rate strategy,
is the monetary policy of the Eurosystem. In other words, Denmark follows
"the rules of the game" almost entirely, or as the Governor of Danmarks
Nationalbank, Ms Bodil Nyboe Andersen, often says, "The Danish krone shadows
the euro".
In this connection, and before the question and answer session begins, let me
conclude by addressing the following key questions to you, on the
understanding that this is a rhetorical way to express my ideas and that I do
not necessarily expect any of you to answer them.
If Denmark already is following "the rules of the game", why, then, should
you not make use of the advantages of belonging to the Eurosystem? Why, then,
should you not participate in the decisions concerning the monetary policy
which, in actual fact, applies to Denmark?
______________________
(1) For a more detailed analysis, see the article entitled "The international
role of the euro", in the August 1999 edition of the ECB's Monthly Bulletin,
pp. 31-35.
                                       ***                                       
              European Economic and Monetary Union - principles and              
                                  perspectives                                  
               Summary of a presentation by Ms Sirkka Hдmдlдinen,               
           Member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank,           
                         The Tore Browaldh lecture 1999,                         
          School of Economics and Commercial Law, Gцteborg University,          
                          Gothenburg, 25 February 1999                          
The European integration process started shortly after the Second World War
and was, at the time, strongly motivated by political factors. The aim was to
eliminate the risk that wars and crises would once more plague the continent.
The first concrete result was the establishment, in 1952, of the European
Coal and Steel Community between six countries (Belgium, France, Germany,
Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands). This was followed by the adoption of
the Treaty of Rome in 1957, laying the foundations for the European Economic
Community.
The first concrete proposal for a Monetary Union was presented in the so-
called Werner Report in 1970. The Report was intended to pave the way for the
establishment of a Monetary Union in the early 1980s. However, the proposals
of the Werner Report were never implemented - being overtaken by world
events. After the break-up of the Bretton Woods system and the shock of the
first oil crisis in 1973, most western European economies were contaminated
by the economic sickness popularly labelled "Eurosclerosis", characterised by
high inflation and persisting unemployment. At that time, the European
economies were protected by regulations and financial markets were still
poorly developed. In this environment, it was concluded that a Monetary Union
would not be possible and the project was postponed.
The idea of establishing Monetary Union was revived only in 1988 and a
detailed proposal was presented the following year in the Delors Report,
after the launch (in 1985) of the Single Market programme on the free
movement of goods, services, capital and labour. Because of the single
market, the Report could be more explicit and credible with regard to how
best to achieve closer economic ties between the EU economies before the
introduction of a single currency. Moreover, the Report was supported by a
detailed description of an institutional set-up geared towards ensuring
stability-oriented economic policies.
Notwithstanding the thorough work invested in the Delors Report, almost 10
years of convergence and technical preparations were required in order to
ensure the successful implementation of the euro on 1 January 1999. And the
project is still not over: the euro coins and banknotes will be introduced
only in 2002 - 13 years after the presentation of the Delors Report and 32
years after the presentation of the Werner Report.
Achieving a credible currency
Today, almost two months after the introduction of the euro, we can say that
the technical changeover to the euro was successful. Now, the Eurosystem
(i.e. the ECB and the 11 national central banks of the participating Member
States) must focus on ensuring the long-term success of the new currency. The
credibility of a currency is built up by several factors, the basis of which
is the central bank's commitment to price stability. Here, the Eurosystem is
in the fortunate position of being assigned, through the Maastricht Treaty,
the unambiguous primary objective of maintaining price stability in the euro
area. Another fundamental building block of credibility is ensuring that
monetary policy decisions are independent of political pressures. This
building block was also laid down in the Maastricht Treaty, which ensures
that the ECB and the participating national central banks enjoy a very high
degree of independence, possibly more than any other central bank in the
world.
The credibility of a currency also relies on the preparedness of governments
to pursue stability-oriented policies of fiscal discipline and to undertake
necessary structural reforms. On this point, the Stability and Growth Pact
adopted by the EU countries provides a basic framework for fiscal discipline
and should enhance the governments' incentive to proceed with structural
reforms.
In order to enhance credibility, it is also important that the central bank's
strategy for achieving the primary objective is clear and that the link
between the strategy and the central bank's policy actions is easily
understood by the public. By following a transparent approach, the central
bank can directly improve the efficiency of monetary policy. This contributes
to achieving stable prices with the lowest possible interest rates.
Striving towards increased transparency led the Governing Council of the ECB
(composed of the Governors of the 11 national central banks and the six
members of the ECB's Executive Board) to establish a precise definition of
price stability in order to bring about absolute clarity as regards the
primary objective; price stability was defined 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 the price movements.
The adoption of the Eurosystem's monetary policy strategy also aimed at
enhancing transparency in the implementation of monetary policy. The strategy
is based on two key elements: First, money has been assigned a prominent role
in the form of a reference value for the growth of the euro area wide
monetary aggregate M3. Second, the Eurosystem carries out 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.
In order to explain to the public the Eurosystem's policy actions against the
background of the adopted monetary policy strategy, the Eurosystem uses
several channels: the ECB's Monthly Bulletin; the issuance of a detailed
press release after each Governing Council meeting, in which the decisions
are explained; the organisation of a monthly press conference at the ECB; the
appearances of the President at the European Parliament; and, finally, the
numerous speeches and articles by the members of the Governing Council. Taken
as a whole, the Eurosystem is probably among the more active central banks
when it comes to explaining its policies to the public.
A further important building block in order to establish credibility is the
promotion of an efficient implementation of the monetary policy decisions.
The Eurosystem has aimed to set up an operational framework which is
consistent with market principles and which ensures equal treatment of
counterparties and financial systems across the euro area. The Eurosystem's
operational framework is based on the principle of decentralisation in order
to take advantage of the established links between the national central banks
and their counterparties. The monetary policy operations will therefore be
conducted by the national central banks, while decisions are taken centrally
in the ECB's decision-making bodies.
The consequences of a single currency: perspectives for the future
The most important effects of the single currency relate to the possibility
of improving macroeconomic stability and credibility for the policies
pursued; these effects are particularly important for the smaller European
economies. Moreover, important benefits can be derived from microeconomic
factors, such as lower transaction costs, wider and deeper financial markets,
improved price transparency and increased competition.
Starting with the macroeconomic factors, Monetary Union makes it possible for
the participating countries to combine their credibility. In this way, small
countries can, to a certain extent, "borrow" credibility from some of the
large countries which have pursued stability-oriented policies for a long
time. Under credible conditions, the financial markets are no longer under
pressure from speculative attacks by large institutional investors. Price and
interest rate developments are stabilised, and the investment climate for
companies is secured. In the microeconomic field, the most obvious
consequences relate to lower transaction costs and increased price
transparency across national borders. These factors are likely to contribute
to increased competition and downward price pressure on many products.
One very important consequence is that the use of a single currency will give
rise to larger and more competitive financial markets in the euro area. In
most European countries, the financial markets have, by tradition, been
rather shallow, with few participants and a rather narrow set of financial
instruments on offer. A high degree of segmentation and a lack of cross-
border competition have implied relatively low trading volumes, high
transaction costs and a reluctance to implement innovative financial
instruments.
On the introduction of the euro, the foreign exchange risk of trading in the
different national markets in the euro area fully disappeared. This has
triggered increasing cross-border competition and has provided an incentive
for the harmonisation of market practices. In fact, the trading of money
market paper and euro area government bonds can already be considered to be
largely integrated. The markets for private bonds are still segmented owing
to the differing institutional and regulatory conditions across Member
States, but they, too, will gradually integrate and provide an incentive for
increasing the issuance volumes of private bonds. This will contribute to
reducing the financing costs for private companies, and it will provide
improved opportunities for investors.
Monetary Union provides much needed assurance of exchange rate stability for
exporters, importers and investors. This is particularly important for small
and open economies. In fact, most countries in Europe are to be considered
small in the current global perspective. The active use of the exchange rate
as a tool of economic policy could be an alternative for a large reserve-
currency country. For a small country, experience has shown that large
changes in the exchange rate tend to give rise to higher costs rather than
benefits, due to the harmful effects on expectations and higher interest
rates.
Some of the economic effects of the Monetary Union may partially benefit also
the countries remaining outside Monetary Union. Nevertheless, it is important
for the "out" countries, to assess whether they find that the benefits of
maintaining a national monetary policy "autonomy" - if there is any such
autonomy in an integrated and globalised market situation - outweigh the
possible drawbacks of not being able to fully draw on the credibility of the
euro area, the integration of the euro area financial markets, lower
transaction costs, improved price transparency and increased competition.
The euro and the Nordic countries
The Nordic countries have chosen to organise their monetary policy ties to
the euro area in very different ways: Finland is the only Nordic country
taking part in Monetary Union as from the start of Stage Three; Denmark
negotiated an opt-out from Monetary Union but follows a fixed exchange rate
policy vis-а-vis the euro within the new Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II);
Sweden decided not to participate in Monetary Union from the start of Stage
Three, without having a formal opt-out and the Swedish krona still floats
freely against the euro; and Norway and Iceland remain outside the EU
altogether.
The divergent approaches taken by the Nordic countries as regards one of the
most important economic and political projects in Europe in modern times are
somewhat strange in view of their traditionally close cultural, historical,
political and economic ties. Nordic co-operation has always been very
important and close. I note with satisfaction that the public opinions in
Denmark and Sweden now seem to be swinging in a more favourable direction
with regard to future membership. Maybe the successful implementation of the
euro has made the public understand that Monetary Union is aimed at ensuring
long-term stability in Europe. In this context, the recent signals from the
Government of the United Kingdom in favour of membership in the Monetary
Union are also very encouraging.
Personally, I think that it would be beneficial to all Nordic countries - and
the United Kingdom - to join Monetary Union within the not too distant
future. I hope that Sweden and Denmark can become members already before the
introduction of the euro banknotes and coins in 2002.
It is important for these countries to also assess the political aspects of
remaining outside Monetary Union. Experience has shown that EU Member States
which have taken initiatives and worked constructively towards European
integration have been generally more successful in gaining influence than
those less committed to the project. In this respect, it should be noted that
the aim of the Maastricht Treaty is clearly to establish a Monetary Union
comprising all EU Member States.
Personally, I also think that the Nordic countries could provide a fruitful
joint contribution to the long-term success of Monetary Union. There is no
need to overemphasise the role of small countries in this process, but it is
clear that co-ordinated views by a group of small countries would have a
larger influence than the views of individual countries. One of the benefits
of the Nordic countries - and small countries in general - is that they are
seldom bound to their old traditional system. In contrast, they typically
fight for efficient solutions which would be in the interest of the whole of
the euro area.
Concluding remarks
The project to establish European Economic and Monetary Union was carefully
prepared and based on very strong political commitment. It has contributed to
the co-ordination of economic policies - even in a wider sense - in an
environment of deregulated financial markets and the free flow of capital.
The stability arguments behind the introduction of the euro have been so well
accepted that we are already seeing serious and visible efforts aimed at the
next step towards a global "single currency" through the establishment of
exchange rate co-ordination between the euro, the US dollar and the Japanese
yen. In order for any such world-wide currency co-ordination to become
successful, there would be a need for political commitment to globally
harmonising fiscal, monetary and structural policies. In this context, I
would advise realism, caution and a gradual approach in spite of the longer-
term ideal goal of global stability. There are still many challenges and
adjustments ahead within the euro area before any world-wide steps should be
considered. Our first priority is to ensure long-term stability in the euro
area economies under the single monetary policy and on the hope that the euro
area will soon cover all EU countries.
                                       ***                                       
                   Eurosystem: new challenges for old missions                   
                  Inaugural Lecture by Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa,                  
           Member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank,           
                      on the occasion of his appointment as                      
            honorary Professor of Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universitдt,            
                        Frankfurt am Main, 15 April 1999                        
Table of contents
1. Introduction
2. Policy missions
3. New challenges
4. Making the eurosystem a central bank
5. Dealing with the European unemployment
6. Managing financial transformations
7. Coping with a lack of political union
8. Conclusion
1. INTRODUCTION
I participate in this Dies Academicus, at the University that carries the
name of Goethe, in the town of Frankfurt, in the first year of the euro, with
thoughts and emotions that are hard to conceal.
In my early youth, at the time of the decisions that determine one's life,
the dearest of my Gymnasium teachers told me: "You have to resolve, in order
to decide your future, the dilemma of what interests you most: whether to
understand or to change the world." My choice has been Economics. And, the
subject of economics being human action, I early discounted that the call for
action would prevail, in my motivations, over the enquiring spirit. I did not
expect how strongly that dilemma would continue to accompany my life. More
importantly, I did not understand, at the time, how much acting and enquiring
are complementary ways of being in the world and searching for truth, as
Goethe's work and life so profoundly witness. Science changes reality;
practical activity not supported by reflection and analysis is ineffective
and even harmful.
If I now live in Frankfurt and am here today it is because most of my
professional life was spent in an institution - the Banca d'Italia - where
eminent persons like Guido Carli, Paolo Baffi and Carlo Azeglio Ciampi
allowed the dilemma of my early years being kept somewhat unresolved and
favoured independent analysis as a complement of practical activity. They
also shared and encouraged the combination of enquiry and action that helped
the euro to become a reality. To them I therefore dedicate this lecture.
Academia is the place where teaching and enquiring reinforce each other by
going hand in hand. It originates from Socrates' precept that "the wisest
recognises that he is in truth of no account in respect to wisdom". Teaching
is assertive, enquiring interrogative. One is based on the presumption that
we have answers to transmit; the other is based on the modesty imposed by
unresolved questions.
The mode of the following remarks will be the interrogative, rather than the
assertive one. Not only because presumption is certainly not my йtat d'esprit
today, but, more importantly, because the theme of this lecture - the new
challenges posed by the advent of the euro - has a distinctly intellectual
dimension, not only a practical one. The success of EMU will largely depend
on the ability to identify new problems at an early stage and to analyse them
without prejudice. While the mission entrusted to central bankers is not new,
the challenges in the years to come may indeed differ from those of the last
few decades. They may be "new" either because they have not been experienced
before, or because they have acquired a new dimension.
In reviewing what I consider to be, for the Eurosystem, the most important of
such challenges, I shall use the academic privilege of taking a free and
forward-looking perspective. My point of view will, therefore, not
necessarily coincide with that of my institution. Moreover, I shall not be
objective, because I shall mainly draw on the intellectual and practical
experiences that have constituted my professional life.
2. POLICY MISSIONS
Policy missions have not been altered by the start of the euro. They
correspond to aspects of the public interest that were not redefined, and did
not need a redefinition, because of the euro.
In the field of central banking the public interest is to provide economic
activity with a medium of exchange that preserves its value over time. In the
broader field of economic policy - of which monetary policy is part - the
public interest is, to use words from the Maastricht Treaty that can be
similarly found in most national constitutions and legislation, "to promote
economic and social progress which is balanced and sustainable" (Article B).
In the field of European integration, the mission is that of "creating an
ever closer union among the people of Europe, in which decisions are taken as
closely as possible to the citizen" (Article A). Finally, in the field of
international relations the public interest is to "maintain international
peace and security" (UN Charter Article 1.1) as well as to "contribute to the
promotion and maintenance of high level of employment and real income"
(Articles of Agreement of the IMF, Article 1.ii).
The formulation of these policy missions has taken shape over the course of
this century, or even earlier, on the basis of experience, scholarly
investigation, political debate and action. There would be no consensus about
the primary mission of the central bank if countries had not experienced
first hyperinflation and then successful monetary management by a stability-
oriented and independent central bank. Social progress and economic growth
would not be on the agenda of governments without the labour movement and the
Great Depression. We would not have the EU Treaties and the Charter of the UN
without the tragedy of two World Wars.
Economists have explored the scope for economic policy action, and the limits
thereof, in the monetary, fiscal and regulatory fields. Without thirty years
of academic debate about the role of monetary policy, the EMU Treaty and the
Statute of the ESCB/ECB would not have been written the way they were. The
subordination of economic policies to the principle of "an open market
economy with free competition" would not have been explicitly inserted in the
Maastricht Treaty (Article 3A) had those principles not gained recognition in
the community of scholars.
Central bankers (most notably in the Delors Committee) have prepared the
blueprint for the single currency. International and constitutional lawyers
have elaborated the legal concepts and studied the procedures to carry out
the policy missions. They have built that legal monument that is the
Rome/Maastricht Treaty. Citizens and politicians have discussed, promoted and
implemented the whole process.
Different policies carry different degrees of compulsion and effectiveness.
In general, instruments are more strongly framed when they are entrusted to
institutions whose area of jurisdiction coincides with that of the nation
state. Strongly framed instruments, however, do not necessarily produce
strong results. Tough regulation against air pollution adopted only by a
small country is less effective, for that same country, than softer
regulation adopted by a larger group of countries. The economic literature
about externalities, or that about optimal currency areas, are seminal
examples of the contribution economic research can make in this respect.
In the following I shall focus on the mission of the central banker, because
this is the function assigned to me. I am convinced, however, that the
missions I mentioned are fundamentally complementary. Different assignments
are part of an orderly division of labour. In a democratic and market-
oriented environment not only citizens, but also officials, can consider the
aims of the various policy bodies and charters - national and international -
to which they refer as forming a consistent configuration. I regard this as a
special privilege of the time and space in which I have lived so far.
3. NEW CHALLENGES
In the last thirty years central bankers have fought for two objectives: the
recognition of the primacy of price stability for monetary policy, and the
independence of the central bank. This has been the period in which the
combination of political democracy and fiduciary currency made the governance
of money particularly difficult in many countries.
The intellectual recognition, then the political acceptance and finally the
actual implementation of a monetary constitution based on price stability and
central bank independence have required a long process. The academic
profession has contributed to it in a powerful way, from Irving Fisher to Don
Patinkin to Robert Lucas. Even those who have denied the need of having a
central bank, like Milton Friedman and Friedrich A. von Hayek, have in the
end contributed to clarify its role and function. No less persuasive have
been the arguments of experience. In a positive sense, the economic success
of the country - Germany - where the two elements had been introduced at an
early stage. In a negative sense, the social evil of high and prolonged
inflation suffered by many other countries, including my own.
In legal and institutional terms, the result of this long fight has been
engraved in the Treaty of Maastricht. The Treaty represents the strongest
monetary constitution ever written, not only because of its substance, but
also because the procedure to amend it is more difficult than that required
for the charter of any existing central bank. Largely induced by Maastricht
and EMU is also the independent status of national central banks in the
European Union. We should indeed not forget that, until recently, key
decisions in the field of monetary policy were still in the hands of the
Treasury in such countries as the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain.
The Maastricht process has been the catalyst for monetary reforms central
bankers had advocated for years.
Partly, but not exclusively, because of this process, the conditions under
which the single currency has come to life differ from those prevailing in
the past years.
Prices have for some time now shown the highest degree of stability seen for
more than thirty years. Most countries have made significant progress towards
fiscal consolidation. The consensus on sound principles of budgetary and
monetary management is broader and stronger, among both politicians and
ordinary people, than in any other period the present generation can
remember. Few dispute in an open way the now widely used expression "culture
of stability".
However, when in 1981 it was decided to save the last specimen of the
smallpox virus in a laboratory for the sake of documentation, health had not
ceased to be in danger. Similarly, none of these achievements can be
considered as permanent and central bankers should primarily strive to
preserve them. To this end, detecting new challenges at an early stage is
essential. The question is: where do the problems come from? What are the
circumstances under which the "old mission" will have to be accomplished in
the coming years? What threatens our health besides smallpox?
4. MAKING THE EUROSYSTEM A CENTRAL BANK
The first challenge consists in making the Eurosystem a central bank. It may
seem simple, but is not. Let me start my explanation from the two key words
of this proposition.
Eurosystem is the word chosen by the ECB to indicate the "ECB+11
participating national central banks", i.e. the central bank of the euro. The
Treaty has no name for this key entity, while it refers extensively to the
ESCB (European System of Central Banks) formed by the ECB and the 15 European
national central banks). However, as long as there are "out" countries, the
ESCB in its full composition will remain a scarcely relevant entity because
it neither refers to a single currency area nor has any policy competence.
Instead, the word Eurosystem indicates clearly the articulated entity which
is for the euro what the Federal Reserve System is for the dollar.
Central bank is the institution in charge of the public interests associated
with the currency. It originates from fundamental changes in the technology
of payments: the adoption of banknotes, cheques and giros, and their final
disconnection from gold. These changes have shaped the two other functions
that most central banks have derived from the original payment system
function: monetary policy and banking supervision. Man-made money made
monetary policy possible. Commercial bank money made banking supervision
necessary.
These three functions have most often been entrusted to the same institution
because they are inextricably linked. Just as money has the interrelated
roles of means of payment, unit of account and store of value, so central
banking has a triadic function that refers to the three roles of money.
Operating and supervising the payment system refers to money as a means of
payment; ensuring price stability refers to money as a unit of account and a
store of value; pursuing the stability of banks refers to money as a means of
payment and a store of value. The function remains triadic (albeit, in my
view, in a less satisfactory way) even where prudential control is entrusted
to a separate agency. I am referring to the special "supervision" any central
bank has over its banking community, necessitated by the fact that banks are
the primary creators of money, providers of payment services, managers of the
stock of savings and counterparties of central bank operations.
In performing its triadic function the central bank exerts operational and
regulatory powers, interacts with other public authorities and the financial
community, entertains relations with other central banks, participates in
international debates and negotiations about monetary and financial matters.
In all these activities it pursues and represents the public interest of a
sound currency; all are instrumental to that interest. From the point of view
of the perceptions of people and markets all such activities refer to that
same public good that we call confidence.
For the Eurosystem the challenge is to rise to a full central banking role as
just defined. It is necessary because of the links that bind the various
functions of money. The Eurosystem would find it hard to play effectively its
most delicate role - the pursuit of a stable currency or, as the German
Constitution puts it, "die Wдhrung zu sichern" - if it appeared as an
inexplicable exception to the classic paradigm of a central bank. The public,
the markets, the international institutions and fora would not understand.
But it is also difficult, because the steps to take are multiple and complex
from both a conceptual and a practical point of view. Moreover, they cannot
all be taken at once. Let me briefly explain.
In the articulation of any federal constitution (Bund, Land and local, to use
the German terminology) the central bank undoubtedly belongs to the level of
the "federation", or Bund. The fact that important activities are conducted
by "local" components of the system (Landeszentralbanken, or Federal Reserve
District Banks) is an organisational feature that does not impinge upon the
constitutional position of the central bank. The same happens within Monetary
Union. The Eurosystem is the central bank of the euro area, even though
operations are carried out - to the extent possible and appropriate - through
its component parts, the NCBs. Indeed, the constitutional and the
organisational profile of the institution are not in contradiction.
Although a federal and decentralised central bank is not a novelty, the
Eurosystem is a special case. It is the central bank of an economy that has a
much deeper national segmentation than any other currency area. Its
components have for many generations (and until few weeks ago) performed the
full range of central banking functions under their own responsibility and in
a national context. They have been accountable to, and sometimes dependent
on, national institutions. Public opinion has perceived, and still perceives,
them as national entities. The notion of the public interest they were
referring to was the notion of a national interest. Significant differences
existed, and partly remain, in their tasks, organisations, statutes and
cultures.
In this situation, making the Eurosystem a central bank requires drawing the
appropriate distinction between being national in the organisational sense
and being euro area-wide in the definition of the public interest pursued.
This is a difficult distinction to draw in conceptual terms, not only in
practical terms or from the point of view of personal attitudes.
In the preparatory discussions and negotiations that led to the Maastricht
Treaty, central banks took the view that monetary functions are indivisible
and that, contrary to the fiscal field, subsidiarity cannot apply to the
monetary field. Their traditional and strongly held position has been that
the public interest assigned to central bank is a whole which cannot easily
be decomposed. Indeed, while there is a fairly well developed theory of
fiscal federalism, there is no equivalent for the monetary field.
As I said, I do think that the functions of a central bank constitute a whole
that cannot be split. This does not exclude that the Eurosystem should avoid
seeking more uniformity than necessary and that some diversity is a positive
factor and has always been valued as an aspect of the richness of Europe.
Perhaps even a limited degree of internal competition may be used as an
incentive to good performance. But can the Eurosystem depart from the two
historical models of the Federal Reserve System and the Bundesbank? What are,
in conceptual terms, the criteria of what I just called the "appropriate
distinction"? What should be the touchstone?
It would be an illusion, I think, to expect or pretend to have a full and
satisfactory answer solely from legal interpretation. And it would be
unfortunate if the Eurosystem were to fall into the trap of the narrowly
legalistic approach that paralyses international organisations. The
Eurosystem is not an international organisation, its model is not the
Articles of Agreement of the IMF. Of course, the answer will have to comply
with the Treaty, which provides useful guidance. However, the system is
entrusted to decision-making bodies that are composed not of lawyers, but of
central bankers. They carry the primary responsibility to manage the euro and
are accountable for that responsibility. They have known for years what a
central bank is and how vague the wordings of central bank statutes have
historically been. Their touchstone can only be, in the end, the
effectiveness in the accomplishment of the basic mission embodied in the
triadic paradigm of central banking functions.
5. DEALING WITH EUROPEAN UNEMPLOYMENT
The second challenge comes from the high level of unemployment in Europe.
Every economist, observer or policy-maker would probably agree that the most
serious problem for the European economy, today and in the years to come, is
high unemployment. In large parts of continental Europe the economic system
just seems to have lost the ability to create new jobs.
Also on the nature and causes of European unemployment there is a large
degree of agreement, as there was agreement on the nature and causes of
European inflation well before price stability was finally restored in the
1990s. The key words describing such agreement are structural factors and
flexibility. There is agreement that perverse incentives, direct and indirect
taxation of labour, unsustainable pension schemes, overly tight employment
rules and rigidities throughout the economy are the main obstacles to the
creation of new jobs. There is agreement that the typically European welfare
state system should be profoundly corrected, but not suppressed. Many also
think that rather than following a "Thatcherian" policy of cracking down on
the trade unions, it would be preferable to work with, rather than against,
the labour organisations, although reform entails occasional confrontations.
As with inflation in the 1970s and 1980s, so unemployment in the 1990s -
while being a European disease - is quite diversified across European
countries and regions, due to differences in both policies and economic
situations. It is over or around 20 per cent in the Mezzogiorno and Sachsen-
Anhalt, but below 7 per cent in Lombardy and Baden-Wьrttemberg; over 18 per
cent in Spain, but less than 4 in the Netherlands.
Notwithstanding the intergovernmental debates at a European level and the
stated intention to undertake common initiatives, the instruments of
employment policy remain in national hands, although only partly in the hands
of governments. I regard this as appropriate because competition should not
be suppressed from the labour market.
Adopting the appropriate policies of structural reform has proved extremely
difficult in many key European countries, including my own and this one.
Other countries, such as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, have been
more successful. Even the most successful experiences, however, have shown
that reducing unemployment is a long and gradual process. Although some
countries started labour market reforms in the early 1980s, they only reaped
the benefits in the 1990s.
Unemployment will thus remain with us in the years to come and I am convinced
that it should be regarded as the greatest policy challenge not only by
governments and labour organisations, but by the Eurosystem as well. Let me
explain why.
An economy in which unemployment drags above 10 per cent for years is a sick
economy, just like one in which public finances or inflation are chronically
destroying savings. To operate in a sick economy is always a risk for the
central bank and for the successful fulfilment of its primary mission. In the
case of prolonged unemployment, the risk arises both on a functional and an
institutional ground.
On a functional ground, i.e. from the point of view of the relationship
between economic variables that models usually consider, a chronically weak
economy is one in which expectations deteriorate, investments stagnate,
consumption declines. Structural unemployment may increase the risk of a
deflationary spiral because a longer expected duration of unemployment may
imply that households respond more conservatively (in terms of increasing
savings) in the face of a deflationary shock. Today, we see no signs of
deflation. Markets and observers who pay attention to communications by the
Eurosystem know that the monetary policy strategy of the euro area is
symmetrical, equally attentive to inflation and deflation. Thus, they know
that if that risk became reality, the Eurosystem would have to act, and would
act. But we know that monetary policy is much less effective in countering
deflation than it is in countering inflation.
A more insidious threat, however, may arise on the institutional ground. It
comes from a chain of causation involving social attitudes, economic theory
and policy, actual economic developments and institutional arrangements.
Attitudes of society respond to economic situations and policies, which in
turn depend on the state of development of economics. Institutions, on their
part, are influenced by attitudes of society. Both the course of economic
thought and the practice of policy were lastingly altered by the Great
Depression. The epitome of this historical event was the Keynesian
revolution. In many countries the strong consensus about the primacy of price
stability and the independence of the central bank was the outcome of the
prolonged inflation suffered in the 1970s and 1980s. Here in Germany, it is
rooted in the experience of hyperinflation. Would such a consensus survive if
high unemployment remained a chronic feature of key European economies for
many more years? And how would the position of the central bank change if
that consensus faltered?
As central bankers primarily concerned with price stability, what can we do
to cope with this challenge and to reduce the risks? My answer may seem
disappointingly partial, as I do not think there is a miraculous medicine
that monetary policy can provide. I would phrase it as follows.
Firstly, the central banker should be aware of the danger. He should know
that in the future his principal objective may not receive, from the public,
governments and parliaments the same strong support which has been the
outcome of the two decades of high inflation. Since unemployment is what
concerns the voters and the youngsters most, it may be increasingly necessary
for him to play an educational role in explaining the benefits of a stable
currency to those who have not directly experienced the costs of inflation.
This is very much like the case of the post-war generations in Europe which,
being fortunate enough not to experience the horror of World War II, need now
to be reminded about the human costs of that terrible conflict.
Secondly, the central banker should avoid mistakes. It may seem obvious, but
he should never forget that independence does not mean infallibility and that
the likely new environment will offer no forgiveness for mistakes. A mistake
would be the attempt to provide a substitute for the lack of structural
policies by providing unnecessary monetary stimulus: it is not because the
right medicine is neither supplied by the pharmacist nor demanded by the
patient that the wrong medicine becomes effective. Another mistake would be
to give the impression that the central bank has a ceiling in mind for
growth, rather than for inflation. On the contrary, the central bank should
make it clear that any rate of non-inflationary growth is welcomed and would
be accommodated, the higher the better.
Technically, this will not be an easy task. The analytical uncertainty
surrounding estimates of potential output and its growth rate might lead the
central banker to respond quite cautiously to evidence of shifts in the rate
of non-inflationary growth. While such caution is certainly optimal from an
inflation stabilisation point of view, it might be wrongly interpreted as a
systematic deflationary bias by the public and the politicians. This is a
clear case in which any progress made by scholars in refining the analytical
tools of the economic profession will greatly help the central banker to
achieve his goals without imposing unnecessary costs on society at large.
On the whole, however, it is part of the central banker's role to make the
day-by-day decisions that, in the end, constitute monetary policy. This
responsibility can be neither transferred to, nor challenged by, policy
makers responsible for other areas. Last week, the Eurosystem has made, for
the first time in its life, an affirmative monetary policy decision by
lowering its official rates. In this way, the Eurosystem has acted in line
with its monetary policy strategy and made a significant contribution towards
an economic environment in which the considerable growth potential of the
euro area can be exploited in full. It is now the responsibility of other
sectors of economic policy making to do their part by strictly adhering to
the Stability and Growth Pact and implementing decisive structural reforms.
6. MANAGING FINANCIAL TRANSFORMATIONS
The third challenge consists in accompanying and surveying the rapid changes
the European financial institutions and markets are undergoing, and will
continue to undergo over the coming years, partly - but not exclusively - as
a consequence of the euro.
It is sufficient to observe the US Federal Reserve System to understand the
role the Eurosystem should play in the coming years: attention in monitoring
changes in the financial system, active participation in the policy debate
caused by such change, intense dialogue with both the Administration and
Congress, influence exerted on opinions and decisions.
To a large extent the factors of change are technology determined, hence
independent of the euro and even not specifically European. Technology is the
driving force of the transformation in banking and finance that modifies the
traditional deposit loan structure of banks. Technology also reshapes
dramatically the back office and the communication with customers, thus
producing massive over-branching and over-staffing in traditional banks. Also
the globalisation of finance comes primarily from the combination of data
processing and telecommunications.
Other changes are specifically European. Since universal banking has
historically prevailed in continental Europe, the change from an institution-
based to a market-based financial system is particularly significant in this
part of the world. Similarly, the development of financial conglomerates is
more pronounced in Europe than in the United States or Japan. Typical of
continental Europe are also the labour market rigidities that make the
restructuring of banks so difficult and slow.
Finally, there are changes induced by the euro. The removal of currency
specificity as a cause of national segmentation of the financial industry is
causing a convulsive shake-up of both institutions and markets. Since the
beginning of this year, about ten banks ranking near the top of their
respective national lists have concluded or started merger operations in
France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway. In most European
countries stock exchanges and other organised markets, which were legally and
structurally organised as providers of a public service, have been
transformed into profit-driven private institutions and are now in a process
of rapid concentration. In the coming two or three years the number of banks
will shrink, the largest banks will become much larger, few financial centres
and market networks will replace the present one-country one-centre
configuration.
In any national system the central bank would actively monitor and even guide
the course of such a transformation. It would do so along with the various
agencies responsible for financial supervision and competition policy, and
with an involvement of the executive power itself. Although largely
determined by business decisions, these developments indeed involve the
public interest in various ways.
Surveying and accompanying a profound transformation of the financial
industry would be a difficult task for any central bank. For the Eurosystem
it will represent a daunting challenge because it will put to the test an
unprecedented articulation of the policy functions that are called for. Let
me briefly explain this assertion.
The institutional setting of the euro area establishes a double separation
between central banking and other public functions. Firstly, a functional
separation, whereby banking supervision is now assigned to institutions that
- even when they are national central banks - no longer exert independent
monetary policy functions. Of this separation we have many previous examples
(Germany, Japan, Sweden, now the UK, etc.). Much newer is a second,
geographical, separation, whereby - with only the partial exception of
competition policy - the area of jurisdiction of central banking does not
coincide with the area of jurisdiction of the other public functions involved
(banking supervision, regulation of the securities market, etc.).
Experts, including academic people, have so far focused attention on lender-
of-last-resort functions and suggested that the new setting would not be able
to act effectively in a crisis. I have argued elsewhere why this criticism
seems unjustified. Here, I would like to suggest that the real challenge
could come, in my opinion, from tensions between the national and the euro
area interest in the process of financial transformation.
The process of industry transformation will inevitably involve aspects that
have traditionally been considered as sensitive by public authorities:
suppression of jobs, location of facilities and headquarters. Financial
transformation will also produce a hardening of competition and competition
will be, to a considerable extent, one between national financial centers and
industries, not only between individual banks or institutions. The propensity
to defend national champions may prevail over the pursuit of efficiency. The
risk for the Eurosystem to fall in the trap of an improper interplay between
the EU and the national dimension of the public interest may become high.
Like any central bank, the Eurosystem should be both active and neutral in
the great transformation of "its" financial industry. The word "system" that
is part of its own name refers, and should apply in practice, to the whole
euro area.
7. COPING WITH A LACK OF POLITICAL UNION
The fourth challenge consists in coping with the lack of a political union.
The relationship between monetary and political union and whether the latter
should be a precondition for the former has been a central issue in the
European debate well before the establishment of the Delors Committee in
1988. While I do think that there is a lack of political union and that this
lack constitutes a serious challenge for the Eurosystem, I also think that
the expression "lack of political union" is often used in an unclear way that
blurs the issue. Let me thus first consider two meanings of this expression
with which I do not concur.
First, I do not concur with the idea that there is no political union in
Europe today. It is not because the content and the competence of the
European Union are mainly economic, that its nature and historical role are
not political. Even before the single currency, EU competence extended over
virtually the whole Corpus Iuris of economic activity, from the establishment
of "the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital" (the four
freedoms proclaimed by Article 3 of the Treaty) to external economic
relationships. To understand how very political these issues are, it should
suffice to think about the place they take in the US political debate today,
or have taken in the politics of our countries before the creation of the
European Community. Moreover, the institutional architecture of the European
Union is entirely that of a political system, not that of an international
organisation based on intergovernmental co-operation: a legislative capacity
that prevails over that of Member States, a judicial power, a directly
elected Parliament.
Second, I do not concur with the idea that Monetary Union has developed
outside the political process. Quite the contrary is true. The establishment
of a single currency in the European Union has been achieved because of the
strong political determination of elected governments over a full decade,
from June 1988 to May 1998. It is significant that during that long period
continuity has not been broken by repeated changes of political majority in
virtually all countries except Germany. Technocrats, i.e. central bankers,
have "only" played their role, crucial as it may be. They have provided
expertise, from the drafting of the blueprint to the preparatory work for the
actual start of the system. And, no less important, they have loyally
accepted the limits of their role and recognised that the ultimate decisions
have belonged to elected politicians. This is the meaning of the two
statements of July 1988 and March 1998 with which the Bundesbank has defined
its position at the beginning and the end of the crucial decade. "In der
Beschrдnkung zeigt sich der Meister".
The establishment of a single currency is a strongly political event in its
genesis and a profound social and cultural change in its nature. As
economists and central bankers we pay limited attention to notes and coins
because they are a minor and endogenous component of the money stock. For
many politicians, however, Monetary Union meant little else than a common
banknote. They saw, better than us, that for the people money has to do with
the perception of the society to which they belong and, ultimately, with
their culture. As such, money goes well beyond the economic sphere of human
action. Indeed, the act whereby we accept to provide goods or services to an
unknown person in exchange for pieces of paper that have no intrinsic value
is perhaps the most significant and widespread testimony of the social
contract that binds people. This is why coinage and money printing have
always been a prerogative of the State.
Yet, for two main reasons it remains true that Europe has a lack of political
union. First, the European Union is still not the ultimate provider of
internal and external security, the two key functions that constitute the
raison d'кtre of the modern State. Second, EU institutions still fail to
comply with the key constitutional principles that constitute the heritage of
western democracies: foundation of the legislative and executive functions on
the popular vote, majority principle, equilibrium of powers.
Why does the lack of political union constitute a challenge for the
Eurosystem? I would answer as follows.
In a period of less than thirty years money has abandoned both the anchors it
has had since the earliest times: metal and the sovereign. It is true that
central banks have struggled for years to free the printing press from the
influence of the modern sovereign, as they struggled in the past to free it
from the influence of private interests. It is equally true that the present
status of the Eurosystem in the constellation of public powers is
exceptionally favourable. However, only a superficial thinker could confuse
independence with solitude and take the view that the lack of political union
strengthens the position of the central bank and makes it freer to fulfil its
mission.
The security on which a sound currency assesses its role cannot be provided
exclusively by the central bank. It derives from a number of elements that
only the State or, more broadly, a political union as previously defined, can
provide. When we say that a currency is a "safe haven" we refer not only to
the quality and credibility of its central bank, but to the solidity of the
whole social, political and economic structure to which it belongs. And
historical experience shows that when that structure appears to weaken, the
currency weakens, irrespective of the actions of the central bank. A strong
currency requires a strong economy and a strong polity, not only a competent
central bank. The central bank is, and should remain, an institution with too
limited a mission to replace the lack of a political union.
The problems posed by the coexistence of a single currency with a still
unachieved political union will influence both practical and intellectual
activity in the coming years. They will have implications for the central
banker, the politician and, more generally, the citizen. For the politician
the implication is that his political decision to move ahead with Monetary
Union in advance of political union contains an implicit commitment to work
for the completion of political union. The central banker should be aware of
the special difficulties and responsibilities deriving from this anomalous
condition. On the one hand he will have to cope with this situation and adapt
his attitudes to a composite - EU and national - institutional architecture,
one that lacks the simplicity he was used to and in which the Eurosystem now
represents the most advanced supranational component. On the other he should
be prepared for the further evolution of that same architecture. Finally,
from the citizens that we all are, it will require a deeper reflection about
the multiple "social contracts" he is part of, and the loyalties they entail.
8. CONCLUSION
I have been fortunate to operate in an environment in which no conflict has
arisen between the central banking profession I have exercised for more than
thirty years and the European conviction that, like many persons of my
generation, I matured in my youth. Since the early '80s I have also been
convinced that monetary union, i.e. a confluence of the two motives, was
desirable and possible. At the same time, the challenges for the Eurosystem
originate precisely from that confluence.
The challenges are not solely economic in their nature, nor can their
features be captured by the functional relationships economists are most
familiar with. Although partly related to economic factors, their features
are in fact tied to the special institutional environment to which the
Eurosystem now belongs. They derive from the tension between the completion
of the union in the monetary field and the incompleteness of the overall
construction. It is a tension because in that environment the notion of the
public interest is no longer as simply and statically defined as it was when
the Nation-State was an all-pervasive reality and the jurisdiction of the
central bank coincided with its jurisdiction. Inevitably, this tension runs
through the institutions of the European Union, the Eurosystem itself, and
even our minds.
A challenge is a call to a difficult task; it entails the two notions of
necessity and difficulty. The problems I have tried to describe are a
challenge not only for practitioners, but also for the academic profession,
because their solutions can hardly be found in a textbook and will only be
invented if the creativity of practitioners will be supplemented with that of
scholars.
                                       ***                                       
                             Monetary policy in EMU                             
                               Prof. Otmar Issing                               
           Member of the executive board of the European Central Bank           
                                Washington, D.C.                                
                                 6 October 1998                                 
1. Introduction
On 1 January 1999, the curtain will rise on a world premiиre. For the first
time in history, sovereign states will abandon their own currencies in favour
of a common currency, and transfer their monetary policy sovereignty to a
newly created supranational institution. This process is all the more unusual
from a historical perspective because the national currencies involved are
not being abolished because of their weakness. On the contrary, proof of a
large measure of monetary stability is demanded as a precondition for
participation.
The decision has been taken. The Euro will start on time. It must not - and
it will not - fail. The European System of Central Banks (ESCB) will devote
its best endeavours to making European Monetary Union (EMU) a success.
The French president recently called this unique project a "great collective
adventure". As a central banker I am generally not in favour of "adventures"
- but who would deny that there are risks and uncertainties in this
enterprise? You should be reassured that at the European Central Bank (ECB),
we have the necessary independence, instruments and tools to deal with these
risks and uncertainties in a successful way. I will discuss some of these in
a moment.
Moreover, when considering the uncertainties implied by the transition to
Stage Three of EMU, we should not forget that Monetary Union will also
reduce, or even eliminate, a number of risks. This has already been
demonstrated, even before the actual introduction of the euro. Recent turmoil
in international financial markets did not cause any significant disruption
to exchange rates among currencies of the designated participants in Stage
Three. This is a clear demonstration of the success of the EMU process.
Today, I will address the role of monetary policy in EMU.
First, I will make reference to the final goal of monetary policy - the
maintenance of price stability.
Second, I will discuss some important issues relating to the design and
implementation of the monetary policy strategy at the outset of Stage Three
of Monetary Union; and
Finally, I will describe some features of the operational framework of the
ESCB that have recently been finalised.
Let me begin by discussing the over-riding priority we attach to the
maintenance of price stability.
2. The priority of price stability
The Treaty on European Union - the Maastricht Treaty - stipulates that the
"primary objective of the ESCB shall be to maintain price stability". It was
left to the ESCB to provide a quantitative definition of this primary
objective. At the ECB's precursor, the European Monetary Institute (EMI), it
was agreed that, in the interests of transparency and accountability, the
ESCB's chosen operational definition of price stability should be announced
publicly. This announcement would form an important element of the overall
monetary policy strategy. Simply defining price stability leaves open the
question of why price stability is desirable. As a central banker, the
benefits of price stability appear self-evident. Any single argument in
favour of price stability cannot comprehensively describe the benefits that
it brings.
For instance, concerning the United States, Martin Feldstein has recently
shown that, in combination with taxes and social contributions, even quite
modest rates of inflation can cause considerable real economic losses.
Research at the Bundesbank has produced similar results for Germany.
But elimination of the losses caused by this channel is only one illustrative
example among the many benefits of price stability. The greatest contribution
that the ESCB can make to the euro area's output and employment performance
is to achieve and maintain the stability of prices. Stable prices are at the
core of the 'stability culture' we are trying to create in Europe, a culture
that is the foundation of sustainable and strong growth in the standard of
living for Europe's citizens.
At the same time, the ESCB does not operate in a vacuum. Monetary policy
needs to be supported by an appropriate fiscal policy and necessary
structural reforms implemented at the national level if this 'stability
culture' is to be built on solid and sustainable foundations. The private
sector also has its part to play, notably by exercising wage moderation,
given the high levels of structural unemployment in the euro area. Progress
on all these dimensions is not only desirable, but also absolutely necessary.
Monetary policy alone cannot ensure strong, non-inflationary growth and
improved employment prospects throughout the euro area. However, only a
monetary policy focussed closely on the achievement of price stability can
lay the basis for these conditions.
Of course, that is not to say that the ESCB can, or should, ignore broader
macroeconomic considerations. For instance, the threats posed by deflation in
combination with nominal rigidities to the real economy have to be taken into
account. In order to prevent any misunderstanding, let me be very clear: my
discussion of deflation has to be seen in the context of the formulation of
an optimal definition of price stability for the ESCB that takes into account
deflationary dangers. These dangers certainly cannot be ruled out and our
definition of price stability should reflect them. However, simply recalling
the current rate of inflation in the euro area - 1.2% - shows that deflation
is not an immediate concern for policy-makers.
While periodic and transitory falls in the price level may be normal, and
should not give rise to major concerns, a prolonged deflation is clearly
inconsistent with any meaningful definition of price stability. Moreover,
since nominal interest rates cannot fall below zero, a prolonged deflation
may render the interest rate policy of the central bank rather ineffective.
What remains is out-right purchases of assets - both foreign and domestic.
Similarly, the ESCB cannot ignore the implications of nominal rigidities in
wages and prices for the transmission mechanism of monetary policy. If we
were to live long enough under a regime of stable prices, I would not exclude
the possibility that wage and price setting behaviour would adapt, and
nominal rigidities would finally disappear. This would reduce some of the
potential output costs of fighting inflation, and thus increase the net long-
run benefits of price stability. However, for the time being we may have to
live with these rigidities and take their effects into account when deciding
on our monetary policy strategy.
In this respect, the present situation is not easy for the ESCB. Unemployment
in the euro area is currently very high.
However, in contrast to these persistently high levels of unemployment -
which are largely structural in origin - the prospects for maintaining price
stability are currently very encouraging. Inflation expectations and long-
term interest rates in the euro area are at close to historical lows. Actual
area-wide inflation is also very subdued.
The current low 'headline' rate of inflation has been moderated somewhat by
recent falls in oil and commodity prices, themselves stemming, in part, from
the economic and financial crises in Asia and, more recently, in Russia.
However, this effect on inflation has been largely off-set by the impact of
indirect tax rises in a number of participating countries, which have raised
consumer prices for certain goods. All in all, the changed external
environment contributes to an overall outlook of very subdued inflationary
pressures.
In defining price stability, one might ideally refer to a conceptual measure
of 'core' inflation that tries to isolate monetary effects on the price level
- for which the ESCB is properly responsible - from such terms of trade or
indirect tax shocks, over which it has little immediate control.
In our month-to-month communication with the public, 'core' measures of
inflation may prove useful. But, in its preparatory work for Monetary Union,
the EMI recognised that any sensible definition of price stability for the
euro area would have to be based on a comprehensive and harmonised price
measure. 'Core' measures of inflation typically exclude some items. They are
unlikely to be comprehensive enough to satisfy the requirements of an index
suitable for a sensible public definition. These considerations point to
using the 'headline' measure of the harmonised index of consumer prices (or
HICP) for the euro area in the definition of price stability.
Finally, the ESCB needs to build on the success of its constituent national
central banks (NCBs) in reducing inflation and achieving price stability
during the convergence process in Stage Two of EMU. Given the current
generally benign inflation outlook in the euro area that is the product of
these accomplishments, there is an understandable desire to 'lock-in' the
current success in achieving price stability as well as the apparent
credibility of monetary policy, and ensure continuity with existing central
bank practice.
3. The importance of the monetary strategy for a successful start of European
monetary policy
When price stability is defined using the principles just outlined, how
should the ESCB proceed to maintain it? In achieving and maintaining price
stability - the primary objective of the Treaty - the choice of monetary
policy strategy is vital.
Within the ECB, a considerable amount of work on the monetary policy strategy
has already been completed, building to a large extent on the substantial
earlier preparatory work of the EMI. A high degree of consensus has been
reached among the NCBs and within the ECB about the main outlines of the
strategy - I will address some of these areas of agreement in a moment. The
final decision has not yet been made. But you should be reassured that
progress is being made at a good pace. I have no doubt that we will be in a
position to announce the details of the ESCB's monetary policy strategy in
good time, prior to the start of Stage Three.
Being a new institution, the European Central bank must be prepared to come
under intense scrutiny right from the start. In particular, the international
financial markets will monitor its every decision like hawks. Facing this
environment in the run-up to Monetary Union, the ESCB must ensure that
everything possible is done to make the launch of Stage Three as tension-free
as is possible. Choosing and announcing an appropriate monetary strategy is
crucial.
The monetary policy strategy is, in the first place, important for the
internal decision-making process of the ESCB - how the Governing Council will
decide on the appropriate monetary policy stance, given the economic
environment. Above all, the ESCB strategy must lead to good - that is to say,
timely and forward-looking - monetary policy decisions.
But the strategy is also of the utmost significance in communicating with
audiences outside the ESCB. It should stabilise inflation expectations. The
more the strategy helps to promote credibility and confidence in the ESCB's
monetary policy at the outset of EMU, the more effective that policy will be
- and the easier the ESCB's task of maintaining price stability will become.
In deciding upon the appropriate monetary policy strategy, the following
aspects must be seen as essential requirements. The strategy must:
* reinforce the ESCB's commitment to price stability, the
primary and over-riding task stipulated by the Treaty;
* it must clearly signal the anti-inflationary objectives of
the ESCB, and serve as a consistent benchmark for the
monetary policy stance; and,
* it must be transparent and explained clearly to the general
public - only then can the strategy serve as a basis for the
ESCB's accountability to the public at large.
The realisation that achievement of an optimal, non-inflationary
macroeconomic outcome may founder on the private sector's distrust has been
central to the monetary policy debate of the nineteen-eighties and 'nineties.
The search for answers to the questions raised by this debate has spawned an
enormous economic literature. The keywords "time inconsistency" and
"credibility" draw forth an almost unmanageable flood of publications that
have appeared in the wake of the pioneering contributions of Kydland /
Prescott and Barro / Gordon.
The need to establish a credible and consistent monetary strategy in the face
of the well-known time inconsistency problem faced by policy makers - the
dilemma highlighted by this economic literature - is especially important for
the ESCB at the outset of Monetary Union. As a brand new institution, the
ESCB will have no track record of its own.
Building its reputation, and the associated credibility of monetary policy,
is vital. But the process of doing so is complicated by the relatively high
level of uncertainty surrounding the transition to Monetary Union itself. The
transition to Stage Three is a unique event, and will create unique
opportunities for many - but it will also create some unique problems for
monetary policy makers. At the ECB, we are addressing these problems and are
confident that the risks can be managed successfully. Many of the
difficulties we face will be overcome through our own efforts over the coming
months.
Among these problems are the difficulties involved in creating a
comprehensive and accurate database of euro area-wide statistics. Running a
single monetary policy for the euro area requires timely, reliable and
accurate euro area data. In some cases, the euro area statistics simply did
not exist until quite recently. In others, the statistics are based on new
concepts, and the properties of the data series are not yet well known. The
long runs of high quality back-data required for empirical economic analysis
may be unavailable. Those that do exist are likely to have been constructed
using some degree of estimation and judgement, possibly rendering the
econometric results produced with them questionable.
Furthermore, the regime shift associated with the adoption of the single
monetary policy may change the way expectations are formed in the euro area,
and thereby alter forward-looking economic behaviour. Monetary policy's
effects on consumption, investment, and wage bargaining - and therefore the
whole transmission mechanism of monetary policy to developments in the price
level - would be among the important economic relationships to be affected in
this way.
This may be no bad thing. Indeed, using the regime shift implied by the
transition to Stage Three to change both public and private sector behaviour
in favourable directions may be one of the largest gains that the euro area
can extract from Monetary Union. Nevertheless, these changes are likely to
complicate the implementation of certain important elements of a monetary
strategy, at least in the short term, as past relationships between
macroeconomic variables may break down. What is good for the euro area
economy as a whole may create some practical problems for the ESCB.
One example of this so-called 'Lucas critique' phenomenon is the impact of
current, very low rates of inflation on private behaviour. For many countries
participating in Monetary Union, there is simply no - or only very recent -
experience of how the private sector will behave in an environment of
sustained and credible low inflation. Instability in past relationships may
result, should behaviour change in this new, low inflation environment. I
have already argued that these structural changes will benefit Europe's
citizens - price stability will allow markets to work more efficiently,
thereby raising growth, and improving employment prospects. But these changes
may also complicate the ESCB's assessment of economic and financial
conditions.
These uncertainties - arising directly from the transition to Stage Three
itself - are both compounded by, and inter-related with, the broader economic
context in which Monetary Union will be established. The increasing
internationalisation of the global economy, and the current rapid pace of
technological change, have affected all sectors of the economy, and the
banking and financial systems in particular. For example, at present there
are many, inter-related innovations in the payments system, such as:
* the introduction of TARGET (directly related to EMU itself);
* greater technological sophistication of payments mechanisms,
as use of computers and information technology becomes more
widespread and advanced;
* the additional incentive for cash-less payments that may
arise from the fact that for some time to come -
approximately three years - the new euro-denominated notes
and coin will not come into circulation. In particular,
narrow monetary aggregates might be affected by this
development; and,
* increased competition among banks and settlements systems,
arising from globalisation and the breakdown of barriers
between previously segmented national markets, which may
drive down the margins and fees charged to customers.
At the ESCB we will need to keep abreast of these developments, both for
their immediate impact on one of our "basic tasks" - promoting the smooth
operation of the payments system - and because of their broader implications
for the euro area economy. Reducing transactions costs in the way I just
described will benefit European consumers and producers - but it may also
change the indicator properties of monetary, financial and economic variables
that national central banks have looked to as guides for monetary policy in
the past.
Finally, in Monetary Union there will be some heterogeneity across countries
within the euro area. Europe's diversity is one of its greatest assets. But
this diversity is greater than is typically the case between different
regions in the same country using a single currency. Nevertheless, the ECB
Governing Council will have to concentrate on monetary and economic
developments in the euro area as a whole when discussing and taking monetary
policy decisions.
How should a monetary policy strategy be selected in this - for monetary
policy makers, at least - potentially difficult environment? The EMI outlined
a number of 'guiding principles' for the selection of a monetary strategy by
the ESCB. Foremost amongst these was the principle of 'effectiveness'. The
best monetary policy strategy for the ESCB is the one which best signals a
credible and realistic commitment to, and ensures achievement of, the primary
objective of price stability.
For many commentators, this criterion points unambiguously in the direction
of so-called 'direct inflation targeting'. If monetary strategies are to be
judged according to how well they achieve price stability, defined as a low
rate of measured inflation, then advocates of inflation targets argue an
optimal strategy would surely target this low inflation rate directly. These
commentators would place explicit quantitative targets for inflation itself
at the centre of the ESCB's monetary policy strategy. Their approach has been
strongly endorsed in some academic and central banking circles.
But, in the current circumstances, a pure 'direct inflation targeting'
strategy is too simplistic for the ESCB, and possibly even mis-conceived. The
ESCB well understands the primacy of price developments and price stability
for monetary policy making. Indeed, the Treaty's mandate is unambiguous in
this respect. We will signal our intentions on this dimension very clearly by
making a transparent public announcement of our definition of price
stability. The current low level of long-term nominal interest rates in the
euro area suggests that the financial markets, at least, understand and
believe the over-riding priority that we attach to achieving price stability.
Regarding strategy, our choice therefore need not be governed solely by a
desire to signal our intent to maintain price stability. This has already
been well-established - by the Treaty, and by the success of the convergence
process in reducing inflation in Europe to its current low level. Rather than
signalling our intent, the strategy must constitute a practical guide that
ensures monetary policy is effective in achieving the goal we have been set.
In this respect, there are considerable problems with using inflation itself
as the direct target within the ESCB's overall strategy. Because of the well-
known lags in the transmission mechanism of monetary policy to the economy in
general, and the price level in particular, it is impossible for a central
bank to control inflation directly. Therefore, 'inflation targeting' in
practice means 'inflation forecast targeting' where central banks set
monetary policy to keep their best forecast of inflation at the target level
deemed consistent with price stability.
But recognition of this need for forecasts in an inflation targeting strategy
immediately raises practical difficulties. In the uncertain environment
likely to exist at the outset of Monetary Union, forecasting inflation will
be very difficult, not least for the conceptual, empirical and practical
reasons I outlined a moment ago. Forecasting models estimated using historic
data may not offer a reliable guide to the behaviour of the euro area economy
under Monetary Union. Forecast uncertainty is likely to be relatively large,
possibly rendering the whole inflation targeting strategy ineffective.
To address these uncertainties, a large element of judgement would have to be
introduced into the forecasting process, in order to allow for the regime
shifts and structural and institutional changes that are a seemingly
inevitable consequence of EMU. Simply relying on historic relationships to
forecast future developments is unlikely to prove accurate or effective.
While introducing judgmental adjustments into forecasts in these
circumstances would be both appropriate and necessary, such adjustments are
likely to compromise the transparency of the inflation forecasts and, thus,
of any inflation targeting strategy. Using judgement may prevent outside
observers from readily assessing the reliability and robustness of the
inflation forecasting procedures used by the ESCB.
I see a distinct bias in the academic discussion of the comparative
advantages of inflation targeting and monetary targeting. With good reason,
many arguments are presented against the ESCB adopting a monetary target. But
proponents of inflation targeting seem to forget that, in the current
context, most of these arguments could also be used against inflation
targeting. Above all, I have not seen any attempt thus far - even if only a
tentative one - to explain how the ESCB should deal with the specific
difficulties involved in making an inflation forecast at the outset of
Monetary Union that could be used as the centrepiece of an inflation
targeting strategy.
In many respects, a strategy giving a prominent role to monetary aggregates
has considerable advantages over direct inflation targeting. Monetary
aggregates are published. They are clearly not subject to various kinds of
'judgmental manipulation' by policy makers or central bank staff that might
be possible with inflation forecasts. To the extent that policy makers wish
to depart from the signals offered by monetary growth because of 'special
factors' or 'distortions' to the data - including those distortions arising
from the transition to Monetary Union itself - they will have to do so in a
public, clear and transparent manner.
Moreover, a strategy that assigns a prominent role to the monetary aggregates
emphasises the responsibility of the ESCB for the monetary impulses to
inflation, which a central bank can control more readily than inflation
itself. These monetary impulses are the most important determinants of
inflation in the medium term, while various other factors, such as terms of
trade or indirect tax shocks, may influence the price level over shorter
horizons.
In the light of these considerations, it was agreed at the EMI that,
regardless of the final choice of the monetary policy strategy, monetary
aggregates would be accorded a prominent role in the overall monetary
framework adopted by the ESCB.
However, the EMI also noted that certain technical pre-conditions would have
to be met before this 'prominent role' could be translated into an explicit,
publicly announced monetary target, guideline, benchmark or monitoring range.
Specifically, such targets or ranges would only be meaningful guides to
monetary policy if the relationship between money and prices - as
encapsulated in a 'demand for money' equation - was expected to remain
sufficiently stable.
In this regard, several existing empirical studies point towards the
stability of the demand for euro area-wide monetary aggregates. However,
these studies are necessarily only preliminary. The reliability of these
results in the face of the uncertainties raised by the transition to Stage
Three is unknown. Future shifts in the velocity of money are certainly
possible - perhaps even likely. They cannot be predicted with certainty.
Moreover, it is not clear whether those aggregates that have the best results
in terms of stability are sufficiently controllable in the short-term with
the policy instruments available to the ESCB. In these circumstances, relying
on a pure strategy of strict monetary targeting is simply too risky.
Against this background, the ESCB will have to design a monetary policy
strategy of its own. The chosen strategy will show as much as possible
continuity with the successful strategies that participating NCBs conducted
in the Stage Two. At the same time the ESCB's strategy will take into account
to the extent needed the unique situation created by the introduction of the
euro.
4. The new monetary policy instruments and procedures for the euro area
Having a well-designed monetary strategy is vital. But we must also be able
to implement it successfully at an operational level. What instruments are
available to implement this strategy?
The ECB will have a complete set of monetary policy instruments at its
disposal. These instruments have been selected on the basis of their
efficiency for transmitting monetary policy and their neutrality across
market participants.
Three types of instruments are available to the ESCB: open market operations,
standing facilities and a minimum reserve system. I will briefly present
these instruments in the remainder of my speech.
4.1 Open market operations
Open market operations include, first, a weekly main refinancing operation,
which will take the form of a reverse repurchase transaction with a maturity
of two weeks. The main refinancing operation will be based on a tender
procedure. The tender may be a fixed rate tender, with counterparties bidding
amounts, or a floating rate tender, where counterparties propose bids
including both amounts and interest rates.
Second, there is the monthly longer term refinancing operation, which has a
maturity of three months and will always take the form of an interest rate
tender. This is because the ECB will avoid signalling its monetary policy
stance through these particular operations.
The ECB will also conduct fine-tuning operations, through the national
central banks of the euro area or, in exceptional circumstances, on its own
account. Fine tuning operations will be conducted whenever liquidity or money
market conditions warrant. Fine tuning operations may take the form of
reverse repurchase transactions (that is, the same type of transaction as
that used in the main refinancing and the longer term refinancing operations,
but with no pre-set start date nor a pre-set maturity), foreign exchange
swaps or the taking of fixed-term deposits. Fine tuning operations in the
form of reverse repurchase operations may be executed either through quick
tenders or bilaterally. In both cases, these operations will involve a
limited set of eligible counterparties that have an appropriate track record
of activity in the money market. The other types of fine tuning operations
will also be executed with a limited number of eligible counterparties, which
will be selected ex ante by the ECB. In some countries, there will be a
rotation scheme, which will aim at giving the opportunity to all eligible
fine tuning counterparties to participate in fine tuning operations.
Finally, open market operations may also be conducted whenever structural
reasons, such as the longer-term evolution of liquidity profiles, warrant it.
These so-called structural operations may take the form of outright purchases
or sales of securities or the issuance of debt certificates by the ECB.
4.2 Standing facilities
The ECB will operate two overnight standing facilities, which will be
available to all credit institutions at national central banks of the euro
area, provided that, when using the marginal lending facility, they have
sufficient collateral. The rate of the marginal lending facility will
constitute the upper bound of collateralised overnight money market rates.
The deposit facility will be remunerated at a rate that will constitute the
lower bound of overnight money market rates.
When using the marginal lending facility, or, for that matter, when entering
in liquidity-providing open market operations in the form of reverse
transactions, counterparties have to post assets with their national central
bank (or the ECB in the exceptional case when the ECB conducts fine tuning
operations on its own account). These assets are meant to act as guarantees
for credits received from the European System of Central Banks. A list of
eligible assets has been drawn up for this purpose. The list comprises a wide
variety of assets and has two sub-sets. First, the so-called tier one assets,
which are selected by the ECB according to uniform criteria relating to their
credit standing in the whole euro area. Second, the so-called tier two
assets, which have been selected by the ECB because they are of particular
importance for certain national banking systems of the euro area, in order to
promote a certain degree of continuity at the start of the Stage Three of
EMU. Two principles of equal treatment are applied, however. First, the
credit standing of tier two assets is as high as that of tier one assets.
Second, both tier one and tier two assets may be used by any credit
institution in the euro area, irrespective of its location.
In addition, a set of risk control measures has been elaborated to ensure
that, for any counterparty, the amount of assets provided is always
sufficient. Risk control measures cover the assets' price and credit risks,
taking account of the asset type, its characteristics and the maturity of the
transaction. The ECB's risk control measures have been elaborated with
careful attention to the best market practices in this area. They include the
deduction of haircuts from the assets and the imposition of initial margins
to the credit amount. Another feature of the risk control framework is the
regular revaluations of the assets, which will, in most cases, take place
daily and may trigger margin calls, most often to be settled through delivery
of additional assets.
4.3 Minimum reserve system
The ECB will also apply a minimum reserve system to credit institutions of
the euro area. Two main monetary policy objectives have been assigned to the
minimum reserve system. The first objective is to stabilise money market
interest rates through the averaging mechanism, whereby the fulfilment of
minimum reserve requirements is based on average reserve holdings over
monthly periods of time. During the maintenance period, this allows the
banking system to absorb liquidity shocks. The reduced volatility of money
market rates will reduce the need for frequent fine tuning operations, which
will mean that markets are less distorted by central bank interventions than
they would otherwise be. The second objective of the minimum reserve system
is to enlarge the demand for central bank money, so as to enlarge the
liquidity deficit of the banking system vis-а-vis the ESCB. This will
safeguard the role of the European System of Central Banks as a provider of
liquidity to the banking system.
Reserve requirements will be calculated by applying a reserve ratio of 1.5%
to 2.5% to the deposits, debt securities and money market paper issued by
credit institutions, except for residual maturities above two years. Although
repurchase agreements are included in the reserve base, they will be subject
to a zero reserve ratio. Inter-bank liabilities and liabilities vis-а-vis the
ESCB will not be subject to reserve requirements. An allowance of the order
of E 100,000 will be deducted from reserve requirements, so that credit
institutions with a small reserve base will not have to hold minimum
reserves.
Reserve holdings will be remunerated up to the required reserve level, at the
rate of the main refinancing operation (as averaged over a month). It may be
argued that a less than full remuneration of minimum reserves would increase
the interest rate elasticity of central bank money demand. This
notwithstanding, the ECB has decided in favour of a full remuneration of
minimum reserves in view of the distortion to efficient markets that a less
than full remuneration would have implied. As a result of the full
remuneration of minimum reserves, the European Central Bank has also decided
not to exempt any credit institution from the minimum reserve system.
4.4 Procedures
The ECB will have many counterparties and be subject to close public
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 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 Eurostat.
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        
                                   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 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.
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
Europe; and
* 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 reference 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.
In this context, I would once more like to underline how important it is that
a consensus has emerged among European policy-makers on the virtues of price
stability, fiscal discipline and market-oriented structural reform. In this
way, we have already pushed the boundary significantly towards a
macroeconomic environment conducive to growth and employment, although much
still needs to be done in the years to come.
4. Pushing the boundaries in the development of financial markets
However, the success of the euro is not only in the hands of central bankers
and policy-makers. An important area in which the private sector has an
instrumental role in meeting the challenge of pushing the boundaries is in
the development of the European financial markets. In order for the euro to
be a success, it is important for the euro area financial markets to become
wider, deeper and more diversified. The introduction of the euro has provided
further input into this process; the elimination of exchange rate risks has
removed one of the main barriers to financial market integration in Europe.
In most European countries, the financial markets have, traditionally, been
rather shallow, with few participants and a narrow range of financial
instruments on offer. A high degree of segmentation and a lack of cross-
border competition have implied relatively low trading volumes, high
transaction costs and a reluctance to implement innovative financial
instruments. This segmentation has been a function of exchange rate borders,
tradition, differing practices and, of course, national regulations and tax
regimes.
Following the elimination of the barriers implied by different currencies, it
is now up to the European Commission and the relevant national authorities to
further the integration process in the areas of regulation and taxation.
Meanwhile, it is up to market participants to take advantage of the business
opportunities implied by the increased scope for market integration.
The introduction of the euro brought about an almost immediate integration of
the national money markets into a euro area-wide money market. This was made
possible thanks to the establishment of pan-European payment systems, such as
the TARGET system set up by the Eurosystem, which enables banks to access
liquidity throughout the euro area in real time.
The cross-border integration of bond markets in the euro area is progressing
at a slower pace, as is also true of equities and derivatives markets. This
notwithstanding, we are also experiencing important developments in these
segments of the financial markets. These developments are partly due to the
general trends towards globalisation and technological refinement and partly
related to the introduction of the euro. As a result of the introduction of
the euro, market participants increasingly perceive similar instruments
traded in the different national markets to be close substitutes. This holds
true, in particular, for bonds issued by the euro area governments, where the
establishment of common benchmarks, the narrowing of yield spreads and
increased market liquidity seem to indicate that a high degree of cross-
border substitutability has already been achieved.
The fact that euro area financial instruments are increasingly considered to
be close substitutes increases the competitive pressures on national markets
to attract issuers and investors wishing to benefit from increased cross-
border competition and lower transaction costs. In this context, we have
recently experienced several initiatives aimed at creating capital markets
across national borders, such as the plans to establish common trading
platforms linking the European stock exchanges. Similar initiatives have also
been taken to establish links between national securities settlement systems,
which would facilitate the cross-border mobilisation of securities. In the
longer run, such developments will make it possible for investors to manage
their investment portfolios more efficiently.
The Eurosystem welcomes such initiatives aimed at improving the cross-border
integration of financial markets in the euro area, and globally, since they
may result in a wider range of financial instruments on offer, and at a lower
cost, than is currently the case in the national markets. This could lead to
a virtuous circle in which the increased issuance of instruments denominated
in euro will draw the attention of international investors to the euro area
capital markets, in turn making the euro an increasingly attractive currency
for private as well as public issuers.
In fact, the experience of the first few months of the life of the euro seems
to indicate that such a positive development may already be under way. In the
first quarter of 1999, bonds denominated in euro accounted for around 50% of
the bonds issued internationally. This share is considerably higher than the
traditional aggregate share for bonds denominated in the constituent
currencies, which had been in the range of 20% to 30% in recent years. We
have also seen a considerable increase in the average size of bond issues
denominated in euro, as compared with those of bonds denominated in the
former currencies, which may indicate that the trade in euro-denominated
issues is likely to become increasingly liquid.
Despite the recent developments in the euro area capital markets, euro area
companies are still mainly dependent on financing through the banking system.
Hence, there is still plenty of scope for further development in the area of
corporate financing. For example, the amount of private bonds traded in the
euro area is still very low compared with the United States. The market
capitalisation of equities is considerably lower in most euro area countries
as compared with the United States and the United Kingdom. Likewise, the
venture capital business in the euro area is still in its infancy compared
with the relatively mature venture capital markets in the United States and
the United Kingdom. Personally, I am convinced that the introduction of the
euro will also be helpful to the development of these segments of the
financial markets.
In this context, I should like to say a few words on how the introduction of
the euro may underpin the reshaping of the European banking sector. The
increased scope for securitisation will put pressure on the European banking
sector to move away from traditional retail banking activities in favour of
more advanced financial services. The European banking industry is still
segmented into relatively small national markets. The introduction of the
euro is likely to add momentum to cross-border integration in the European
banking sector. Although a considerable consolidation of the European banking
sector has taken place over the last decade, this consolidation has so far
been almost exclusively based on mergers and acquisitions within national
borders. It is only recently that we have also started to see such deals
taking place across national borders.
I welcome this trend towards an expansion beyond national borders with open
arms, since the establishment of truly pan-European - and global - banking
groups will be instrumental in efforts to enhance competition in the
provision of financial services.
5. The Eurosystem and the equity markets
I should like to conclude my presentation today by briefly discussing about
the euro area equity markets as seen from the perspective of the Eurosystem.
It is clear that the Eurosystem has no direct control or influence over the
development of equity markets. However, the Eurosystem acknowledges the
importance of well-functioning and efficient equity markets for the economy
as a means of mobilising savings into productive investment. Hence, efficient
equity markets with transparent price formation, high market liquidity and
low transaction costs are of great value in the capital formation process.
The existence of efficient equity markets should also reduce the risk of the
emergence of asset price bubbles, which is desirable from a monetary policy
perspective. Prior to the emergence of asset price bubbles in some
industrialised countries in the early 1990s, few central banks paid much
attention to the development of prices of equities or other assets in their
monetary policy formulation.
However, the effects of the bubble economies in the early 1990s, notably in
Japan, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia, led to an intense debate among
economists on how monetary policy could have responded better to the
situation. Some research was carried out in order to establish price indexes
that would incorporate asset prices and which could be used as target
variables or indicators within the monetary policy framework. However, no
central bank is explicitly making use of such asset price-weighted indexes in
monetary policy formulation. Nevertheless, this development in the early
1990s made most central banks aware of the fact that large swings in asset
prices can have important effects the price formation in the economy through
its implications on real economic developments and, in particular, financial
market stability.
However, in practice it is not easy to let monetary policy actions respond to
asset price developments. Central banks have only one tool for the
implementation of monetary policy - the short-term interest rate. They can
therefore not effectively try to achieve several objectives at the same time.
It is also difficult to judge how developments in asset prices actually feed
into consumer prices, thereby making it tricky to assess the need for the
appropriate monetary policy response to their changes. This difficulty is
exacerbated by the rather high volatility of certain asset prices, such as
equities, which could result in frequent changes in policy interest rates if
the central bank were to incorporate them mechanistically into its reaction
function.
In this respect, the present situation in the United States, as well as in
several European countries, is interesting: equity prices have risen rapidly
for an extended period but consumer prices remain very subdued and there are,
so far, no signs that there is going to be a spill-over from asset price
developments into consumer price inflation.
Against the background of the rather unclear relationship between asset price
developments and consumer price inflation, the development of equity prices
does not have a prominent role in the formulation of the Eurosystem's
monetary policy. This notwithstanding, the Eurosystem closely monitors the
prices of equities and other assets within its broadly based assessment of
economic developments in the euro area, which forms the second pillar of its
monetary policy strategy. The Eurosystem will therefore remain vigilant in
order to detect any influence from asset prices, through their impact on real
economic developments and financial market stability, on the formation of
consumer prices.
                                       ***                                       
                THE MONETARY POLICY OF THE EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK                
                        Speech by Eugenio Domingo Solans                        
           Member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank           
             during the "Working Breakfast" at the Permanent Seminar             
                          on 4 December 1998 in Madrid                          
Introduction
It was with immense pleasure that I accepted the invitation to take part in
this event, organised by Euroforum. In view of the prestigious nature of
Euroforum, the professional standing of its President, Eduardo Bueno,
Professor at the Universidad Autуnoma de Madrid and consultant to the Banco
de Espaсa (there is a great deal of similarity between our respective
professional histories) and, above all, the value I have attached to his
friendship over the past thirty years, there was no question as to whether to
agree to join you for this working breakfast.
I have been asked to keep my presentation brief in order to allow as much
time as possible for discussion. Therefore I will try to put forward a few
ideas on the monetary policy of the European Central Bank (ECB) which I can
develop during subsequent discussions. During the discussion period please
feel free to raise any questions on other aspects of the ECB's operations.
The three fundamental principles underlying the monetary policy
As in the case of any other central bank, the ECB's monetary policy is based
on three fundamental principles: setting the objectives to be achieved,
establishing the most appropriate strategy for accomplishing these objectives
and, finally, selecting the best instruments for implementing its chosen
strategy.
While the Governing Council of the ECB is responsible for formulating its
monetary policy, both the Executive Board of the ECB and the national central
banks are involved in its application and therefore this constitutes one of
the tasks allotted to the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) as a whole.
Objectives, strategies and instruments therefore form the three main elements
which enable us to establish the precise point within the range of monetary
policy possibilities which should constitute the ECB's policy: its precise
altitude, longitude and depth.
The ECB's monetary policy objectives
We did not have to think long and hard to define the ECB's monetary policy
objectives and, generally speaking, those of the ESCB. This had been done for
us by the Treaty on European Union in which, under Article 105, it is stated
that "the primary objective of the ESCB shall be to maintain price stability"
which, on a more practical level, the ECB has defined as a year-on-year
increase in the harmonised index of consumer prices (HICP) for the euro area
of below 2%, which it seeks to maintain in the medium term. "Without
prejudice to the objective of price stability", continues the aforementioned
Article 105 of the Treaty, "the ESCB shall support the general economic
policies in the Community with a view to contributing to the achievement of
the objectives of the Community as laid down in Article 2".
If you refer to the aforementioned Article 2 of the so-called Treaty of
Maastricht, you will find that sustainable and non-inflationary growth,
together with a high level of employment and social protection, are among its
aims.
The ECB, then, must prioritise those of its activities which promote the
objective of stability and, without prejudice to this approach, it will
contribute, indirectly and to the extent possible, to economic growth and
increased employment.
Is this approach in any way contradictory? Absolutely not. The best
contribution the ECB can make to promoting investment and thus to generating
economic growth and increased employment is precisely by providing a
framework for price stabilisation. The worst path that the ECB could follow
would be to implement a lax economic policy which claimed to be directly
creating jobs.
In fact, in the medium term price stability will encourage efficient
investment, sustainable growth and employment. This is because stability
prevents price distortions, that is to say any distortion of the mechanism
which guides decision-makers in the markets, and thus favours an improved
allocation of resources. When stability is achieved, prices are more
transparent, which promotes competition and therefore efficiency.
Moreover, if economic agents have positive expectations with regard to
stability, the risk premium element of long-term of interest rates will fall,
promoting investment and lasting consumption. In this respect, it should be
remembered that one of the clearest inflation forecast indicators is an
increasingly steep maturity-related asset yield curve.
Finally, stability promotes growth and employment insofar as it allows
resources to be channelled into productive activity. Inflation, on the other
hand, merely encourages speculative investment with the aim of safeguarding
funds against monetary deterioration.
As we saw earlier, the aims set out in Article 2 of the Maastricht Treaty
also include social safeguards. In this context, therefore, it can be said
that inflation is the most unjust of all taxes, because it attacks personal
income and assets while distorting certain public redistribution mechanisms
such as, for instance, progressive taxation scales.
In other words, stability is not just important for economic efficiency but
also for social justice, since it provides economic conditions which benefit
the weakest and most vulnerable members of society.
An appropriate ECB monetary policy is a necessary condition but will not, in
itself, enable us to achieve stability. National taxation policies geared to
satisfying the objectives of the Stability and Growth Pact, together with
several supply-side policies leaning towards liberalisation and flexibility,
are also necessary to enable us to avoid the persistent need for measures to
combat inflation.
We must avoid the temptation to reinterpret the Stability and Growth Pact by
introducing "golden rules" of dubious legality, based on the false
theoretical foundations of the so-called "ultra-rationality hypothesis"
which, in the past, claimed to justify increased taxation pressure and which
now calls for increased public spending in terms of investment. Let's not
beat about the bush: taxation policy has only one golden rule, which consists
in maintaining a long-term budgetary balance on the economic horizon.
In connection with the ECB's objectives, it should also be noted that it is
difficult or even impossible to meet two separate targets simultaneously
using only a single monetary policy. This applies when dealing with the
concept of fixing fluctuation bands for the rate of exchange between the euro
and the US dollar. In this case, the exchange rate objective could conflict
with the price stability concept and the ECB would then fail in its primary
objective. We must not forget, with regard to this issue, that combining
linked exchange rates, the free circulation of capital and monetary autonomy
is not, to be quite blunt, sustainable. It is precisely this which is the
raison d'кtre of the ECB as the single monetary authority in an economic area
which has irrevocably fixed exchange rates (a single currency) and freely
circulating capital (a single market).
To conclude this section, let me stress that it is essential for the ECB to
make it absolutely clear that its main objective is stability. If, as some
would suggest (for instance in the Modigliani manifesto), the ECB were to
directly target employment, this would adversely affect the credibility of
its monetary policy and thus have an impact not only on inflation but also,
paradoxically, on employment. The direct targeting of employment objectives
by a central bank is counterproductive.
The ECB's monetary policy strategy
A strategy is a combination of criteria and procedures which allow decisions
to be taken in order to achieve a monetary policy objective. This decision-
making process can be based on inflation forecasts which depend on the
behaviour of a relevant monetary variable or, more simply, on the "pegging"
of exchange rates to a stable currency. This last strategy is ideal for more
open economies, encompassed by a specific monetary zone, such as, for
instance, the Netherlands and Germany. However, this would not be suitable
for a much larger but relatively closed economic space such as the euro area.
I believe that it is a mistake to try to exaggerate the polarity of the
inflation strategy and the monetary strategy. These are quite clearly
separate strategies but they are not in any way opposed, incompatible or
irreconcilable. Certainly, some aspects of each of these strategies should be
combined, resulting in another, completely separate and valid strategy. This
is what the ECB has done and it now needs to give the end product a name
which does not merely describe the desired objective ("the stability-
orientated monetary policy strategy").
There are two components to the ECB's monetary policy strategy. The first,
more practical and visible component consists in a quantitative reference to
the growth of the money supply as defined by the broad M3 aggregate. Taking
into account the quantitative definition of stability, economic growth and
realistic hypotheses on money circulation rates, this monetary reference has
initially been set at 4 1/2%.
The second component of the ECB's monetary strategy, a more general and
enveloping one, is the estimation of inflation forecasts and risks for price
stability in view of changes in a group of significant variables, all of
which are related to the euro area as a whole. Some examples of these
significant variables are credit, long-term interest rates, prices of raw
materials, import prices, wages and public spending deficits.
Inflation is a monetary phenomenon. When the rate at which the money supply
grows is greater than the nominal potential rate of growth of an economy, in
the medium term this will generate inflation. In other words, the medium-term
inflation rate is indicative of excessive monetary expansion in relation to
economic growth. Growth in the money supply therefore provides the best early
warning of inflation and monetary control is the best monetary policy
strategy. The virtues of the first component of the ECB monetary strategy
are, when all is said and done, well known. If it worked, this alone would be
sufficient.
In practice, however, things are never so simple. Inflation forecasting and
control cannot rely solely on a monetary aggregate because of doubts as to
whether or not this monetary aggregate can be controlled and is stable and
meaningful. If a narrow definition of money, such as M1, is adopted,
controllability can be achieved in that, through the monetary policy
instrument, it is possible to have a greater impact on its evolution, but
this is offset by the loss of stability and significance. If it is decided to
opt for a broad monetary aggregate, such as M3 or M4, the money demand
function becomes more stable and clearly more significant, in that a greater
correlation can be achieved between exchange rates, providing a better
explanation of changes in nominal costs and inflation, in return for some
loss of control. Despite this, doubts persist. In practice, these will, of
course, increase when national currencies are replaced with the euro; then
the need for the second part of the monetary policy strategy will become
obvious.
The ESCB monetary policy tool
The wide range of instruments available to the ESCB for the implementation of
the euro area monetary policy has been established with reference to two
fundamental criteria: efficiency and neutrality. These instruments can be
separated into three categories, related to open market operations, standing
facilities and minimum reserves.
The ESCB's instruments and procedures do not differ significantly from those
traditionally used by the Banco de Espaсa and with which you are all
familiar. This means that I only need to highlight a few differences. In
addition, I should add that over recent weeks the Banco de Espaсa has
introduced changes aimed at facilitating a smooth transition.
With regard to open market operations, the frequency and maturity of the main
re-financing operation has become that of a weekly auction of loans with a
maturity of two weeks, and an interest rate which is either announced in
advance (fixed rate auction) or announced later as the result of offers
received (variable rate auction). There will also be monthly auctions for
three-month loans which will always be of the variable rate type in order to
avoid sending signals to the market. Fine-tuning will be carried out in
exceptional circumstances between two regular auctions and, finally, the
structural liquidity demand can be influenced by means of open market
transactions which consist in the direct purchase and sale of securities or
the issuance of debt certificates.
Standing credit and deposit facilities will supply or absorb overnight
liquidity, without the imposition of any other restrictions on their use by
institutions other than the provision of guarantees or collateral. Both types
of interest on standing facilities constitute a strip or corridor which will
contain short-term market interest rate swings and provide a structure for
monetary policy trends. This means that they will play an important role in
terms of providing signals, a role also fulfilled by the Banco de Espaсa but
in a less predetermined and formalised manner.
As far as guarantees for all these transactions are concerned, it should be
stated that acceptable collateral may take the form of either a public
instrument or a private instrument, provided that these are of a suitable
nature, according to the neutrality principle applied to the public sector
and to the private sector.
The minimum reserves will be equal to 2% of book liabilities calculated on
the basis of a monthly average, will be subject to a minimum exempt level of
EUR 100,000 and - this being the most important point underlining the main
difference compared with the current position in Spain - will be remunerated
in line with market rates. The averaging provision will allow us to absorb
liquidity shocks without recourse to standing facilities. Such a minimum
reserves will constitute a useful tool for restricting the volatile nature of
monetary market interests rates, for reducing the need for fine-tuning and
for tightening up the system's liquidity, thereby enhancing the effectiveness
of the monetary policy. Its remuneration in line with the market will not
only reduce money demand elasticity with regard to interest rates but also
offer neutrality to euro area banks as compared with those in other countries
which do not use such a tool.
Conclusion
Although inevitably in a simplified form, I hope that this statement on the
aims, strategy and instruments of the euro area monetary policy has provided
some basic information on the central core of the ECB's operations and that
it can be used as a starting-point for our discussions.
Thank you for listening; during the discussion period, I shall be pleased to
elaborate on the issues raised or examine any others which you think may be
of interest.
                      The monetary policy of the Eurosystem                      
         Main remarks of the speech delivered by Eugenio Domingo Solans         
         Member of the Governing Council and the Executive Board of the         
                              European Central Bank                              
                       at the SOCIETAT CATALANA D'ECONOMIA                       
                          (Institut d'Estudis Catalans)                          
                             Barcelona, 2 July 1999                             
The text will be available in Catalan at a later stage.
* The primary objective of the Eurosystem and, therefore, the touchstone to
measure its success is the achievement of price stability. In the medium term
the best contribution that the Eurosystem can make in favour of sustained
growth is, precisely, to create an environment of stability. There is clearly
no greater fertiliser for economic growth than price stability, and nothing
is more refractory to economic growth than inflation. Provided that stability
is achieved and that there is no risk for stability in the future, the
Eurosystem has to create the best monetary conditions for exploiting the
considerable growth potential of the euro area. This should be done in a
passive way, without any activism: like the air we breathe, not like the air
from an oxygen tank.
* The 5.2% increase in the three-month moving average of the 12-month growth
rates of M3 covering the period from March to May 1999 is in line with the 4
Ѕ reference value for money growth, which is the basis of the first pillar of
the ECB's monetary policy. Neither the slight increase in the moving average
compared to its value last month (5.1%) nor the non-substantial and almost
constant difference from the reference value signal a risk for price
stability.
* The results of the broadly based assessment of the outlook for price
developments, which constitutes the second pillar of the ECB's strategy,
confirm that there is no risk to price stability in the euro area.
* The second pillar of the ECB's monetary policy strategy includes, among
other indicators, the exchange rate developments of the euro. The ECB's
assessment on the evolution of the exchange rate of the euro should,
therefore, be linked to the risk for price stability of a depreciation of the
euro. Taking into account that the euro area economy is a rather closed one,
no significant inflationary impact should be expected from the recent
exchange rate developments of the euro.
* One main feature of the instruments and procedures of the Eurosystem's
monetary policy is their high level of flexibility, in the sense that without
discretionary changes the instruments can accommodate a wide range of
different market situations. On the other hand, there is flexibility in the
sense that the Eurosystem has at its disposal a wide set of monetary policy
instruments and has, therefore, the possibility to move from one to the other
if and when it is deemed appropriate, taking into account their advantages
and disadvantages. In the first stage of the ECB's monetary policy, the fixed
rate tender with a discretionary allotment is the best choice for the main
refinancing operation owing to its advantages in terms of signalling effects
and controlling both the liquidity allotted and the volatility of overnight
rates. On the contrary, in the case of longer-term refinancing operations,
the Eurosystem as a rule does not intend to send signals to the market and
the effects on the liquidity and on the overnight rates are weaker.
Therefore, for longer-term refinancing operations, the market-oriented
variable rate tender has a clear advantage.
* The activities and the monetary policy decisions of the ECB should be
interpreted from a euro area perspective as a whole. To interpret them from a
national standpoint would be a mistake.
                                       ***                                       
                THE ROLE OF THE CENTRAL BANK IN THE UNITED EUROPE                
                       Speech by Dr. Willem F. Duisenberg,                       
                     President of the European Central Bank,                     
                            National Bank of Poland,                            
                          Warsaw, Poland on 4 May 1999                          
1. Introduction
First and foremost, I should like to congratulate the National Bank of Poland
(the NBP) on its 75th anniversary. The age of the NBP already suggests that
as the President of the European Central Bank (ECB), an institution that is
even less than one year old and has only been conducting monetary policy
since January this year, I should be modest. I am aware that the role of the
NBP has not been constant over these 75 years and that in the past decade, in
particular, the NBP has gone through a remarkable restructuring process. My
previous central bank, de Nederlandsche Bank, has, together with the
International Monetary Fund and many national central banks, been involved in
assisting the NBP in its efforts to adapt to the role of a central bank in a
market economy. Of course, the real work had to be done by you yourselves and
I believe you can be proud of what has been achieved over the past decade.
Today in my speech I should like to focus on the role of the ECB, as a truly
European institution. First of all, I shall explain the background against
which the introduction of the euro and the establishment of the ECB should be
considered. Thereafter, I shall discuss the main features of the
institutional structure that determines monetary policy-making. I shall then
turn to our monetary policy strategy and the role of accountability and
transparency in this strategy. I shall conclude by briefly addressing the
issue of EU enlargement.
2. The process of European integration
On 1 January of this year the euro was introduced in 11 countries with a
combined population of almost 300 million. The ECB started to conduct a
single monetary policy for the so-called euro area. Former national
currencies, such as the French franc and the German Mark are no longer
autonomous currencies, but subdivisions of the euro. Euro banknotes and coins
will only be introduced in 2002.
The voluntary transfer of monetary sovereignty from the national to the
European level is unique in history. However, it should not be seen as a
single, isolated event. The introduction of the euro is part of the process
of European integration. This process started shortly after the second World
War and has now been under way for more than half a century. The aims of
European integration are not only, or even primarily, economic. Indeed, this
process has been driven and continues to be driven by the political
conviction that an integrated Europe will be safer, more stable and more
prosperous than a fragmented Europe. It is true that economic integration has
been the main engine of this process and that, although it has had its ups
and downs, integration has delivered important economic benefits. On balance
it has been successful.
The introduction of the euro and the establishment of the ECB are important
new steps in this process of European integration. They are not the
completion of this process, for at least two reasons. First, the launch of
the euro can be compared to the launch of a rocket. A good launch is crucial,
but only the beginning of the mission. The euro has been launched
successfully. The challenge now is to make it a success. This will not happen
automatically, but will require effort on the part of many authorities,
institutions and people. Second, four EU Member States have not (yet)
introduced the euro. I hope that this will happen in the future. Moreover, as
you are aware, the EU itself is likely to increase its membership over time,
also to include Poland. Ultimately, this is bound to extend the euro area.
This process, too, is already requiring and will continue to require great
efforts: no pain, no gain, as is often the case.
3. The institutional framework of the single monetary policy
Let me now turn to the institutional framework for the conduct of the single
monetary policy. This was laid down in the Treaty establishing the European
Community, the so-called Maastricht Treaty, and the Statute of the ESCB,
which is an integral part of this Treaty. According to the Treaty the ECB has
the primary objective of maintaining price stability. Without prejudice to
this objective, it is to support the general economic policies in the
Community, with objectives such as economic growth and high employment.
Decisions on monetary policy are made by the Governing Council of the ECB.
This body comprises the six executive directors of the ECB and the 11
governors of the national central banks (NCBs) of the Member States which
have introduced the euro. These 17 people meet every fortnight at the ECB, in
Frankfurt am Main. Decision-making on monetary policy is fully centralised.
All members of the Governing Council have one vote, whether they come from
Germany or Luxembourg. This is because of an important principle. They are
not representing their country, but are obliged to take decisions on the
basis of euro area-wide considerations. Regional or national monetary policy
does not and cannot exist in the euro area. There is only one, single
monetary policy for the euro area as a whole. Therefore, the ECB should
develop into a truly European institution. This is a process that will
inevitably take some time, but my feeling is that we are already making good
progress.
The execution of monetary policy is to a great extent decentralised. It is in
large part carried out by the NCBs. The ECB and the 11 NCBs together are
referred to as the Eurosystem. If we refer to the ECB and the 15 NCBs of all
EU Member States, we speak of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB).
The General Council of the ECB meets quarterly and comprises the President
and Vice-President of the ECB and the 15 governors of the NCBs of all the EU
Member States. This body does not make decisions on monetary policy, but
discusses issues concerning the relationship between the "ins" and the
countries I prefer to call "pre-ins", such as exchange rate issues. The third
decision-making body of the ECB is the Executive Board of the ECB, comprising
the six executive directors of the ECB. The Executive Board is responsible
for current business and the implementation of monetary policy as decided by
the Governing Council. The staff of the ECB will, in the course of this year,
reach a level of between 750 and 800 and is likely to grow further in the
years ahead.
The ECB is one of the most, if not the most, independent central bank in the
world. Its independence and that of the participating national central banks
are firmly enshrined in the Maastricht Treaty. Members of the Governing
Council are not allowed to take or seek instructions from anybody,
politicians included. Politicians are not allowed to give such instructions.
Members of the Governing Council have a term of office of at least five
years. The ECB is financially independent.
The independent status of the ECB fits into the recent world-wide trend of
granting independence to central banks. This tendency is evidenced by both
practical experience and academic research. By shielding monetary policy
decisions from political interference, price stability can be maintained
without having to give up economic growth. Indeed, in that sense having an
independent central bank is a good thing for all concerned. The reason for
central bank independence is that monetary policy-making under the influence
of politicians tends to focus too much on short-term considerations. This can
easily lead to temporary, non-sustainable increases in growth, but inevitably
results in lasting increases in inflation with no lasting gains in growth and
employment at all. Politicians all over the world have come to realise this
and have decided to remove the temptation to pursue short-term gains and to
make their central bank independent. It should be underlined that granting
this independence is, as it should be, a political decision. An independent
central bank needs a clear legal mandate.
4. The monetary policy strategy
The ECB has, as I mentioned earlier, such a mandate. However, the Treaty does
not specify how the ECB should pursue its primary objective of maintaining
price stability; in other words: it is silent on what is called the monetary
policy strategy. The ECB therefore formulated its strategy in the second half
of last year. That was no easy task. The introduction of the euro constitutes
a structural break, which may change the behaviour of firms and individuals
and make it less predictable. To a certain extent it is comparable to what
Poland experienced when it embarked on its reform process. The rules of the
game change and this makes policy-making more complicated. Our monetary
policy strategy has taken these specific circumstances into account. It is
tailored to this unique period of the introduction of the euro, although it
has elements of both monetary targeting and inflation targeting.
In the context of this strategy the ECB has provided a quantitative
definition of price stability. Price stability is defined as a year-on-year
increase in the harmonised index of consumer prices (HICP) of below 2% for
the euro area as a whole. Price stability is to be maintained in the medium
term.
The strategy consists of two pillars. The first pillar is a prominent role
for money. Ultimately, inflation is a monetary phenomenon. It is in the end
result of too much money chasing too few goods. Therefore, we have formulated
a reference value for the growth of a broad monetary aggregate, M3, of 4 Ѕ%
on an annual basis. Growth of the money stock at this pace would provide the
economy with sufficient liquidity for growth in activity in line with trend
growth, without inflation. At the end of this year this figure will be
reviewed. It should be emphasised that we did not define a target for money
growth. The reason for this is the structural break that the introduction of
the euro creates. By calling this a reference value, it is made clear that
money is one variable which we look at very carefully in order to examine
whether inflationary or deflationary pressures are tending to emerge. We do
not, however, react mechanistically to changes in money growth.
The formulation of the second pillar is also prompted by the potential
changes in economic behaviour on account of the introduction of the euro. It
is a broadly based assessment of the outlook for price developments on the
basis of an analysis of monetary, financial and economic developments. In
this context interest rates, the yield curve, wage developments, public
finance, the output gap, surveys of economic sentiment and many other
indicators are analysed. Use is also made of forecasts produced by other
bodies and internally for inflation and other economic variables.
This brings me to the role of the exchange rate of the euro in our strategy.
Since our primary objective is price stability and since the euro area as a
whole is a relatively closed economy with an export share of 14% of gross
domestic product, we do not have a target for the exchange rate of the euro,
for example, against the US dollar. This does not mean, and it is good to
underline this once more, that the ECB is indifferent to the external value
of the euro or even neglects it. The external value of the euro is one of the
indicators we look at in the broadly based assessment of the outlook for
price developments. Within that framework, we constantly monitor exchange
rate developments, analyse them and shall act on them, if and when this
becomes necessary. However, such action will never be mechanistic, nor will
it be isolated. The external value of the euro and its development are
analysed and considered in the context of other indicators of future price
developments. The ECB also tries to assess international confidence in the
still very young euro. Of course, the level of international confidence in
the euro is not the only factor determining its external value, nor is the
exchange rate the only indicator of confidence in the euro. It is, for
instance, encouraging to see how the euro has been received on the
international money and capital markets. I am sure that an internally stable
euro will also strongly underpin international confidence in this currency,
as it has for other currencies in the past.
As the currency of a very large area, the issue of the international role of
the euro naturally arises. The ECB takes a neutral stance regarding this
role. It will neither be stimulated, nor hindered. On the one hand, an
international currency has advantages for citizens in the euro area, on the
other, it may sometimes complicate the conduct of monetary policy when a
large amount of euro is circulating outside the euro area. We shall leave the
development of the international role of the euro to market participants and
market forces. If history is a guide as to what will happen, there will be a
gradual process whereby the euro will have an increasingly international
role. Such a gradual development would also be a welcome development, if only
to prevent the euro from becoming too strong externally at some point in
time. It is likely and understandable that interest in the euro is already
considerable in those countries aspiring to join the EU, including Poland. I
shall elaborate on this issue at the end of my speech.
Coming back to our monetary policy strategy, I should like to point out that
it is important to make clear what monetary policy can and cannot do.
Monetary policy can maintain price stability, but only in the medium term. In
the short term prices are also influenced by non-monetary developments.
Moreover, monetary policy measures only have an impact on prices with long,
variable and not entirely predictable time-lags of between 1.5 and 2 years.
Therefore, monetary policy-making should have a forward-looking character.
Today's inflation is the result of past policy measures, and current policy
measures only affect future inflation. The uncertainty of the economic
process in a market economy is another reason for policy-makers to be modest.
The ECB does not pursue an activist policy. Precise steering of the business
cycle or a cyclically-oriented monetary policy are not feasible and are
likely to destabilise rather than stabilise the economy. Some commentators
have interpreted our recent interest rate reduction as a change to a more
cyclically-oriented monetary policy strategy. This is not true. Our strategy
was, is and shall remain medium term-oriented and firmly focused on
maintaining the price stability which currently prevails in the euro area.
Monetary policy should be supported by sound budgetary policies and wage
developments in line with productivity growth and taking into account the
objective of price stability. Otherwise, price stability can only be
maintained at a high cost in terms of lost output and employment. This also
explains why independence should not mean isolation. It is important to have
a regular exchange of information and views with other policy-makers. The
Maastricht Treaty stipulates that the President of the ECB is invited to
meetings of the EU Council meeting in the composition of the Ministers of
Economy and Finance whenever there are issues on the agenda which are
relevant to the ECB's tasks. The President of the Council of Ministers and a
member of the European Commission may attend meetings of the Governing
Council, although they do not have the right to vote. The President of the
Council of Ministers may submit motions for deliberation. Apart from these
formal contacts, there are many informal contacts, for example in the context
of the so-called Euro-11 group of finance ministers from the euro area
countries. I regularly attend meetings of this group.
Monetary policy cannot be used to solve structural problems, such as the
unacceptably high level of unemployment in the euro area. Structural problems
call for structural solutions, in this case measures targeted at making
labour and product markets work more flexibly. The best contribution the
ECB's monetary policy can make in this context is to maintain price
stability. In this way one of the conditions for sustainable growth in
incomes and employment is created. As important as this is, it should be
realised that jobs are created by firms which are confident about the future
and not by central banks.
5. Accountability and transparency
Accountability for policies is the logical complement to independence in a
democratic society. The Maastricht Treaty includes a number of provisions in
this respect. First, there is the mandate to pursue price stability. This
provides a qualitative measure against which the ECB's performance can be
measured. As I have already mentioned, we have decided to enhance this by
providing a quantitative definition of price stability. One of the aims of
publishing our monetary policy strategy is to make our policy decisions
transparent.
The ECB has to publish an annual report in which, inter alia, the monetary
policy of the previous and current year are discussed. I present this Annual
Report to the EU Council and to the European Parliament, which may hold a
general debate on the basis of it. The President and other members of the
Executive Board of the ECB may be heard by the competent committees of the
European Parliament. I have agreed to appear before the European Parliament
at least four times a year. The ECB has to report on its activities at least
quarterly. It has been decided to go beyond this requirement and to publish a
monthly bulletin.
It is my view that the main way to achieve accountability is through being
transparent and open. In passing, I should like to note that transparency
also enhances the effectiveness of a central bank. The better it is
understood, the more successful a central bank is. Apart from the activities
I have already mentioned, transparency is achieved in several ways. Every
month, after the first meeting of the Governing Council, the Vice-President
and I give a press conference. I start the conference with a comprehensive
introductory statement, in which I explain the decisions taken by the
Governing Council and the underlying analysis and arguments for and against.
This introductory statement is published immediately on the ECB's Internet
Web site. This is followed by a question and answer session attended by
several hundred journalists. The questions and answers are also published on
the Internet shortly afterwards. All the members of the Governing Council
frequently make speeches, give interviews and contribute to journals and
books. Thousands of people visit the ECB and the national central banks each
year and, for our part, we and our staff attend many conferences and other
public events.
6. EU enlargement
The European integration process continues. The euro should be made a
success. I have already explained how we have started the process of doing
that. Some observers have criticised the EU for its "obsession with its own
internal dynamics", in particular in the context of European Economic and
Monetary Union (EMU). With all energies focused on meeting the convergence
criteria and the preparation for the launch of the euro, Europeans outside
the EU have wondered whether EMU and enlargement are not mutually exclusive
objectives.
Let me briefly comment on this issue. After the historic decision to complete
the European Single Market in the 1980s, it was felt that economic
integration should not stop at that point. To fully reap the rewards of
economic integration within the Community, a single currency was felt
necessary; a logic pointedly encapsulated in the title of one report: "One
market, one money".
Hence, the underlying idea of EMU was to advance European integration and to
ensure that full use would be made of the economic potential of the Single
Market. This idea continues to be the focus of European policy-makers, as
evidenced by the association agreements and the ongoing accession
negotiations with a number of European countries, Poland among them. Good and
mutually beneficial economic relations with third countries in Europe and
further afield are a pillar of EU policy orientation. Recognising this, the
principles of an open market economy with free competition are enshrined in
the Treaty on European Union. EMU will not weaken this commitment, but rather
reinforce it. Closer co-operation in Europe and the respect of common
principles in the political, economic and social fields are likely to form
the basis for further integration. The ECB shall contribute to this process
within the scope of its responsibility.
Countries wishing to deepen their monetary co-operation to the ultimate
extent possible by forming a monetary union will have to adapt their economic
and legal systems to the standards required by the Treaty and aim at a
sufficient degree of economic convergence. In the absence of these
conditions, adjustment costs for both current and new participants could be
high. Any premature decision on the adoption of the euro could have severe
repercussions on a country's competitiveness and trigger painful economic
adjustments. Therefore, implementation of the necessary institutional reforms
and of a sufficient degree of convergence should not be considered as an
obstacle preventing further integration in Europe, but rather as an essential
means of ensuring the lasting success of EMU, for existing and new
participants alike. Looking at the impressive progress made in a relatively
short time in this country, there is no reason to be pessimistic about
Poland's chances of meeting these standards and convergence criteria. I shall
not venture, however, to predict when this will be the case.
Even at the current juncture, though, EMU in one part of Europe is already
having an impact on the whole region. Let me briefly mention two aspects:
* If the euro emerges, as I believe it will, as a strong and
stable currency, it will provide the countries in the region
with an important reference currency, an anchor towards
which, should the intention arise, monetary policy could
credibly be oriented.
* Furthermore, EMU is set to bring about the development of a
truly unified European financial market, close to that of
the United States in depth and sophistication. The
competitive pressures of this euro area financial market
will create more favourable financing conditions for
borrowers. A number of central and eastern European
countries have already successfully tapped this market.
In view of these effects, it is altogether natural that the ECB has started
to follow with great interest economic and financial developments in the
wider Europe, particularly in those countries which have applied for EU
membership. Moreover, the ECB monitors closely the exchange rate developments
with those countries which have established some form of exchange rate link
to the euro.
The euro has the potential to become more than just a new currency for almost
300 million people in 11 countries. It may also become a unifying symbol,
standing for all that the peoples of Europe have in common. Consequently, the
public perception of the euro could endow the single currency with a role in
the European integration process reaching beyond monetary policy in the
strict sense. May the euro contribute to the establishment of what the
preamble to the Treaty Establishing the European Community calls: "an ever
closer union among the peoples of Europe".
                                       ***                                       
                       The single European monetary policy                       
                         Speech by Willem F. Duisenberg                         
                     President of the European Central Bank                     
                         at the University of Hohenheim                         
                    on 9 February 1999, in Hohenheim, Germany                    
Ladies and gentlemen, The single European monetary policy has been a reality
for a little more than five weeks. After years of intensive preparatory work
and successful economic convergence, monetary policy is now jointly
determined for a large part of Europe by the Governing Council of the
European Central Bank. The monetary policy is implemented by the Eurosystem,
the name given to the ECB and the 11 central banks of the EU Member States
participating in Monetary Union.
The single currency is quoted on the international financial markets and is
used in non-cash payments. However, the euro will not appear as yet in
tangible form as banknotes and coins. Nonetheless there is no doubt that this
currency, which was only brought into existence on 1 January 1999, will play
an important role both within the euro area and beyond.
There is good reason for this confidence, ladies and gentlemen. Overall the
first few weeks went smoothly for the single currency and the monetary policy
of the Eurosystem. The start did not pass by entirely without a hitch - which
was not to be expected in any case, given the significance and scale of this
project - but there were no major complications.
Monetary Union is a unique and outstanding achievement. It provides the great
opportunity to achieve the goal of lasting price stability throughout Europe.
Price stability is the best contribution that monetary policy can make to
lasting economic and employment growth in Europe. The national governments
and all those involved in collective wage bargaining are being called on to
remove the structural causes of the excessively high unemployment. We can
only hope that the introduction of the euro will spur the implementation of
structural reforms.
The stability-oriented monetary policy strategy of the Eurosystem
The Treaty establishing the European Community assigns the European System of
Central Banks (ESCB) - and thereby the Eurosystem - the primary objective of
maintaining price stability. The Governing Council will do its utmost to
fulfil this task and to explain its monetary policy so as to be
comprehensible to the general public. For this reason we have developed a
stability-oriented monetary policy which essentially consists of three main
elements.
The Governing Council has published a quantitative definition of its primary
objective, price stability. This gives clear guidance for expectations in
relation to future price developments. Price stability is defined as an
increase in the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices of the euro area of less
than 2% compared with the previous year. The publication of this definition
provides the public and the European Parliament with a clear benchmark
against which to measure the success of the single monetary policy, and
thereby provides for the transparency and accountability of the Eurosystem
and its policy.
The wording "less than 2%" clearly defines the upper limit for the measured
inflation rate which is compatible with price stability. I do not think I
need emphasise that deflation - or a sustained fall in prices - would be
incompatible with price stability. The latest available data for the annual
rate of inflation according to the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices for
the euro area as a whole fall within the definition of price stability. This
outcome is clearly the result, above all, of the successful monetary policy
of the national central banks in the years before the start of Monetary
Union.
The ECB has only been responsible for monetary policy for a little more than
one month. It will only be possible to judge the success of its current
policy in one to two years'time. This reflects the fact that the transmission
of monetary policy impulses is subject to relatively long and variable time
lags. The Governing Council has therefore emphasised that price stability
must be maintained in the medium term. This statement underlines not only the
need for a forward-looking approach to monetary policy, but also takes into
consideration the short-term volatility of prices in response to non-monetary
shocks which are beyond the control of monetary policy.
In order to achieve the goal of price stability, our strategy rests, in
particular, on two "pillars". Before I explain this in more detail, I should
like to emphasise that traditional and previously established macroeconomic
relationships could change as a consequence of the introduction of the euro.
This was one key reason why neither a monetary targeting nor a direct
inflation targeting strategy could be applied. Our strategy is also more than
just a simple combination of these two approaches. Rather, it is precisely
tailored to the needs of the ECB.
The first pillar of the monetary policy strategy is a prominent role for
money. Since inflation is ultimately a monetary phenomenon in the medium
term, the money supply provides a natural "nominal anchor" for a monetary
policy geared to safe-guarding price stability. To emphasise this prominent
role, the Governing Council has published a quantitative reference value for
growth in the money supply. The first reference value decided upon by the
Governing Council for growth in M3 was 4.5% per annum and was published on 1
December. This value is based on the above-mentioned definition of price
stability and assumes a trend growth in real gross domestic product of 2-2.5%
per annum, as well as a medium-term reduction in the velocity of circulation
of M3 of around 0.5-1% per annum.
We shall not, however, respond mechanistically to deviations from the
reference value for money supply growth, but shall first analyse them
carefully for signals relating to future price developments. Larger or
sustained deviations normally signal risks to price stability.
The second pillar of the monetary policy strategy consists in a broadly based
assessment of the outlook for price developments in the entire euro area.
This assessment will be based on a broad range of monetary policy indicators.
In particular, those variables which could contain information on future
price developments will be analysed in depth. This analysis should not only
provide information on the risks for price development, but should also help
to identify the causes of unexpected changes in important economic variables.
Some commentators reduced this comprehensive analysis to an inflation
forecast. At the same time, there were demands for the ECB to have to publish
these forecasts in order to satisfy the need for transparency and
accountability. Therefore allow me to make this clear: our strategy includes
a comprehensive analysis of numerous indicators and several forecasts. To
focus on a single official inflation forecast of the Eurosystem for a
specific point in time would in no way accurately reflect our internal
analytical and decision-making process. It would impinge upon the
transparency and clarity of the explanation of our policy. The publication of
an official inflation forecast would also be inappropriate with regard to the
accountability of the ECB, all the more so if this forecast were based on the
assumption of no change in the monetary policy. The success of the monetary
policy of the ECB should primarily be measured in terms of the maintenance of
price stability, not the accuracy of its conditional forecasts.
The stability-oriented monetary policy strategy of the Eurosystem, which I
have just outlined, constitutes a new and clear strategy. It emphasises the
primacy of the goal of price stability. It takes into account the inevitable
uncertainties concerning economic relationships inherent in the transition to
Monetary Union and the associated systemic changes and guarantees a high
degree of transparency.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to comment on certain suggestions on the
orientation of monetary policy which have recently appeared in the press.
Some of these ideas give the impression that monetary policy should
concentrate upon objectives other than price stability, since stable prices
have already been achieved. Inter alia, it has been suggested that the ECB
should react more or less mechanistically to exchange rate developments or
other variables such as, for instance, unit labour costs. Furthermore, there
were calls for monetary policy, by means of reductions in interest rates, to
be used to combat unemployment. Against this background there is a need to
set out clearly the possibilities and limitations of monetary policy.
Both the reasoning in the Maastricht Treaty and many economic analyses show
that the best contribution the single monetary policy can make to employment
growth is to concentrate on price stability. Without such a clear approach
there is a danger that the public may question the commitment of the
Eurosystem to the goal of maintaining price stability. Inflation
expectations, risk premia and thus long-term rates would rise. This would
increase the cost of the investment which is necessary for a sustained and
lasting rise in the standard of living.
Even under the best possible circumstances, though - i.e. if it proves to be
possible to assure lasting price stability - monetary policy alone cannot
solve the major economic problems of unemployment and future problems in
social security systems.
The Governing Council regards the current high level of unemployment in the
euro area as a matter of great concern. This problem is, however,
predominantly a structural one. It is mainly the result of the rigidities in
the labour and goods markets in the euro area which have arisen partly
through an excessive and disproportionate degree of regulation. Structural
economic reforms, which target the reduction of rigidities, are the
appropriate solution. In those euro area countries in which such reforms have
been implemented unemployment figures have declined markedly. In addition, I
should like to emphasise that moderate wage developments and a reduction in
the burden of tax and social security contributions would generally help to
reduce unemployment. This would be the case even if the country concerned did
not trade heavily with its neighbouring countries. The positive influence of
low taxes and wages on employment clearly has overall benefits from an
international perspective. Such a policy should not be denounced as "wage
dumping".
Turning to the role of exchange rates between the euro and other important
currencies outside the EU, in particular the US dollar, the Eurosystem has,
in formulating its monetary policy strategy, made an unambiguous choice. This
strategy clearly rules out explicit or implicit objectives or target zones
for the euro exchange rate. The pursuit of an exchange rate objective could
easily jeopardise the maintenance of the objective of price stability and
could thereby also be detrimental to real economic development. Target zones
for exchange rates could, for example, lead to the ECB having to raise
interest rates in a recession, despite increasing downward pressure on
prices. I am sure you will agree that such a mechanistic response to a change
in the euro exchange rate would not be optimal. Furthermore, it is important
to remember that we are living in a world with high capital mobility.
Exchange rate agreements, which might have been possible to implement until
recently, are no longer feasible.
The lack of an exchange rate target does not mean that the ECB is totally
indifferent to or takes no account of the euro exchange rate. On the
contrary, the exchange rate will be observed and analysed as a potentially
important monetary policy indicator in the context of the broadly based
assessment of the outlook for price developments. A stability-oriented
monetary and fiscal policy, as stipulated by the Maastricht Treaty and the
Stability and Growth Pact, is an essential pre-condition for a stable euro
exchange rate. Of course, there is no guarantee of lasting exchange rate
stability, not even in a fixed exchange rate regime. Exchange rate
fluctuations are often caused by structural or fiscal policy, asymmetric real
shocks or conjunctural differences. Monetary policy would clearly be
overburdened if it had to prevent such movements in the exchange rate.
We cannot and shall not gear our monetary policy towards a single variable,
whether a money supply aggregate, an index, the exchange rate or an inflation
forecast for a particular point in time. Nor can we be involved in any ex
ante co-ordination which would entail an obligation to react to particular
commitments or plans. The ECB will always carefully analyse all relevant
indicators. In this context, it is particularly important that the economic
causes of potential risks to price stability in the euro area are understood
as fully as possible. Appropriate monetary policy decisions also depend upon
the causes of unexpected changes in important economic variables. The
Governing Council must, for example, take a view on whether changes in
important indicators are of a temporary or permanent nature, and whether a
demand or supply shock is involved. In our deliberations we also attempt to
take into account how the financial markets, consumers and firms are expected
to react to monetary policy decisions. I believe few would contest that such
a complex analysis cannot meaningfully be reduced to a more or less
mechanistic reaction to a few variables or a single official forecast.
In addition, concern was often expressed that the Eurosystem would not act
transparently enough. In this context, it was said that a transparent
monetary policy also necessitated the publication of the minutes of the
meetings of the Governing Council and disclosure of the voting behaviour of
the individual members of the Council.
For sound reasons the Governing Council decided not to adopt this approach.
The publication of individual positions could easily lead to national
influence being exerted over the individual Council members. The members of
the Governing Council must not, however, be seen as national representatives.
They decide together on the monetary policy for the euro area as a whole. The
Governing Council has committed itself to go beyond the reporting and
explanatory requirements laid down in the Treaty, which are among the most
comprehensive requirements by international standards.
On the basis of our strategy, after every first meeting in the month I
deliver to the press a detailed explanation of our assessment of the overall
economic situation and, in particular, the outlook for price stability. The
content of this so-called "introductory statement" is very close to what
other central banks refer to as minutes. In this way, the public receives
comprehensive information immediately following the meetings of the Governing
Council. In addition, each month we shall publish a detailed report on the
economic situation and monetary policy throughout the euro area in our
Bulletin. Such rapid information on the results of the meetings of the
Governing Council and the current economic analysis of the ECB without doubt
demonstrates a high degree of openness and transparency.
The most recent monetary policy decisions and operations
Co-operation between the European central banks was always very close. In the
last few months of 1998 the countries participating in the third stage of
Monetary Union co-operated more and more closely. The co-ordinated reduction
in leading rates at the beginning of December 1998 clearly showed that the
currency union had begun de facto before the start of Stage Three. This co-
ordinated measure contributed substantially - as we now know - to the
stabilisation of market expectations.
For more than five weeks the ECB has been conducting monetary policy
operations, mainly in the form of reverse open market operations. The main
operation will be carried out at a weekly frequency with a maturity of two
weeks. So far, five such operations have been conducted successfully, at a
fixed interest rate of 3%.
Besides the reverse transactions which constitute the main instrument for
liquidity control and targeting interest rates, the Eurosystem offers two
"standing" facilities: the marginal lending facility and the deposit
facility. These can be accessed by credit institutions via the national
central banks. The marginal lending facility is primarily a safety valve for
short-term liquidity shortages in the banking system and thereby limits
upward movements in money market rates. To some extent, its counterpart is
the short-term deposit facility, which is used to absorb short-term liquidity
surpluses. This forms the lower limit for money market rates. For the start
of Monetary Union the interest rate on the deposit facility was set at 2% and
the rate on the marginal lending facility was set at 4.5%.
As a transitional measure, the Governing Council decided to establish a
narrow corridor of 2.75-3.25% between the rates on the marginal lending
facility and the deposit facility from 4 to 21 January 1999. The intention
was to facilitate the necessary adjustment to the new institutional
environment brought about by the transition to Stage Three. As already
announced, on 21 January 1999 it was decided to return to the rates on the
two "standing" facilities that were set for the start of the single monetary
policy. Since 22 January 1999, therefore, the rate on the deposit facility
has been 2% and the rate on the marginal lending facility has been 4.5%.
A critical factor in this decision was the behaviour of the money market for
the euro area as a whole since the beginning of the year. The Governing
Council established that over time there had been a marked reduction in the
difficulties experienced by some market participants with the introduction of
the integrated money market and, in particular, with cross-border liquidity
flows. All in all, the integration of the money market in the euro area
reached a satisfactory stage only three weeks after its implementation. In
analysing the money market it should be noted that, inter alia, there can be
a marked difference between ECB interest rates and short-term market rates.
On the one hand, market rates may include credit risk premia, and on the
other, expectations may lead to differences between the two rates.
At its meeting last Thursday the Governing Council confirmed its earlier
assessment of the outlook for price stability. Therefore it was decided to
leave the conditions for the next main refinancing operations, on 10 and 17
February 1999, unchanged. They will be carried out as volume tenders at a
fixed rate of 3%, the same conditions as the last such monetary policy
operations.
In addition, in recent weeks the first longer-term open market operations
were also conducted, in the form of reverse transactions. These were carried
out on 14 January 1999 in three parallel tender procedures with maturities of
one, two and three months. The fixed rate tender procedure was used. By
contrast with the regular main refinancing operations, the Eurosystem does
not use these longer-term operations to send signals to the market and
therefore usually acts as a price-taker. The ECB thus gives advance
indication of the planned allocation. The interest rates which arise from
these monetary policy operations should therefore be seen as indicators of
prevailing market conditions.
Regular assessment of the monetary, financial and economic situation
To conclude, I should like briefly to report on the Governing Council’s
current assessment of the monetary, financial and economic situation. On the
basis of these assessments the Governing Council decided last Tuesday to
leave interest rates unchanged.
Taking into account the latest monetary data for December 1998, the three-
month moving average of the 12-month growth rate of the monetary aggregate M3
(for the period from October to December 1998) remained more or less stable
at 4.7%. This value is very close to the reference value set by the Governing
Council. According to our analysis, the evolution of the money supply shows
no risks to price stability. Credit to the private sector also grew strongly
in December last year. Although at present we do not perceive any
inflationary signals, further developments will be very carefully monitored.
With regard to the broadly based assessment of the outlook for price
developments and the risks to price stability in the euro area, monetary and
financial developments can be seen to indicate a favourable assessment of the
latest monetary policy decisions of the Eurosystem. They indicate that market
participants expect a continuation of the environment of price stability.
Long-term rates fell to new historical lows at the beginning of 1999 and
there was an overall downward shift in the yield curve. Therefore, financing
conditions for investment are currently exceptionally favourable.
At present the growth prospects for the euro area are, however, still marked
by the uncertainties relating to the development of the world economy in
1999. These uncertainties have had a negative impact on indicators of the
economic climate in the euro area. There are widespread expectations of an
economic slowdown in the near future. This deterioration in the external
economic environment can be linked, above all, to the financial crises in
Asia, Russia and Latin America. However, there is a mixed picture. While the
growth rate for industrial production fell up to November 1998, retail sales
figures and consumer confidence have recently shown positive trends.
Furthermore, growth in real gross domestic product in the euro area was
relatively robust in the third quarter of 1998. In the United States real
growth in the fourth quarter actually turned out higher than expected.
Measured against the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices, the HICP, consumer
prices in the euro area rose by 0.8% in December 1998. This is a tenth of a
percentage point lower than in November. This development is in line with
earlier trends. It can be linked, in particular, to a further decline in
energy prices and a weakening in price increases in industrial goods.
All in all, the above-mentioned economic development and the available
forecasts for 1999 do not indicate any noticeable upward or downward pressure
on prices. Potential upward risks could arise from a change in the external
global economic situation and any associated effects on the euro area, via
import and producer prices. These developments must be carefully monitored.
There is concern that inflationary pressure might develop in the event of a
strong increase in wage prices and an easing of fiscal policy. Developments
in the exchange rate will also be closely monitored in view of their
significance for price developments.
Finally, let me emphasise that the current level of real interest rates is
exceptionally low. If real interest rates are taken simply as the difference
between nominal rates and the current increase in consumer prices (HICP),
short-term real interest rates in January 1999 stood at 2.3%, i.e. around 80
basis points lower than one year ago. Long-term real rates have fallen even
more, by 110 basis points, and stood at 3% in January. These levels are very
low, both compared with other countries and with historical data. In line
with the safe-guarding of price stability, the current monetary and financial
conditions thus clearly support future economic growth. Monetary policy can
do no more than this without jeopardising the great overall economic
advantages of price stability and its own credibility.
Real structural reforms which increase the flexibility of the labour markets,
as well as a continuation of the moderate increase in wage prices, would not
only ease the burden on monetary policy but would also support employment
growth. This will be all the more true if the deterioration in the economic
situation this year is worse than expected owing to the negative aspects of
the external economic environment.
                    The statistical requirements of the ESCB                    
                   Speech delivered by Eugenio Domingo Solans,                   
           Member of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank           
         on the occasion of a visit to the Banque Centrale du Luxembourg         
                            Luxembourg, 25 March 1999                            
The booklet introducing statistical requirements for Stage Three, which the
EMI published in July 1996, began with the bold statement: "Nothing is more
important for the conduct of monetary policy than good statistics." These
challenging words show the importance which the EMI attached to this area of
preparations for Monetary Union, and I must say this has been fully justified
by our experience in the first few weeks of the life of the euro.
The statement of requirements
But let me start back in 1996. Because of the time it takes to implement
statistical changes in reporting institutions and central banks, a statement
of prospective statistical requirements could be delayed no longer. But that
statement had to be made with very imperfect knowledge. Nobody knew at that
stage (for example) what definitions of monetary aggregates would be chosen
for the single currency area, or what their role would be. Given the
differences in financial structures in our countries, it was not clear how to
identify the financial institutions from whose liabilities the money stock
would be compiled. It was decided to define them in functional terms, and in
such a way that money-market funds as well as banks of the traditional type
would be included. It was not clear at that stage whether minimum reserves
would be applied, and, if they were, what form they would take - although it
had been decided that the banking statistics data would provide the basis for
any such system. Implementation had to start quickly for the statistics to be
ready in time for a Monetary Union starting in 1999, but no one knew which
Member States would adopt the single currency - though it was clear that the
distinction between business inside and outside the euro area, would be of
critical importance for monetary and balance of payments statistics, and
would have to be planned for in statistical systems.
In mentioning monetary and balance of payments statistics, I do not want to
suggest that the statistical requirements set out in 1996 were confined to
these areas. On the contrary, they covered a wide range of financial and
economic data, including financial accounts, prices and costs - relating
directly to the ESCB's main responsibility under the Treaty, namely to
maintain price stability - government finance data, national accounts, labour
market statistics, production and trade data and other conjunctural
statistics, and more besides. These areas are, or course, under Eurostat's
responsibility.
The focus on the euro area as a whole
In formulating and implementing statistical requirements, it was important to
realise that the ESCB's attention would have to focus on the euro area as a
whole. Monetary policy cannot discriminate among different areas of the
Monetary Union - although in practice it may have different effects because
of different national economic and financial structures. Focus on the area as
a whole has important implications. The data must be sufficiently comparable
for sensible aggregation; they must also be available to a comparable
timeliness and to the same frequency. In some cases (monetary and balance of
payments statistics) they had to be available in a form permitting
appropriate consolidation. In short, with a few exceptions, it was realised
that adding together existing national data would not be adequate. Important
initiatives were already under way, such as the adoption of a new European
System of Accounts [ESA95] and the implementation at national level of a new
IMF Balance of Payments Manual. However, wide-ranging statistical
preparations would be necessary for the ECB to have the sort of statistical
information that the national central banks have traditionally used in
conducting monetary policy.
How far the provision meets the current need
I arrived at the ECB about 2 years after these requirements had been released
and 7 months before the start of Monetary Union. I must confess that I
doubted many times in those early weeks whether statistics could be ready in
time to sustain monetary policy decisions. There were anxious moments too in
the late stages of finalising the monetary policy strategy: would the
requirements set out in 1996 correspond to the need perceived in autumn 1998?
I am now sure that the decisions made in 1996 were correct. In practice, one
choice in autumn 1998 was almost automatic: thanks to the work of Eurostat
and the national statistical offices in the context of the convergence
criteria (with active involvement of the EMI), there was no plausible rival
to the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) for the purpose of defining
price stability. I am aware that national consumer price indices are
sometimes criticised for overstating inflation, because they take
insufficient account of quality improvements and use outdated weights. While
further development of the HICP is to come, and at present there is no
satisfactory treatment of expenditure on housing, I believe that every effort
has been made to apply the lessons from experience with national consumer
price measures. The other choices for statistical elements in the strategy
were less obvious. In fact the banking statistics reporting structure
announced in 1996 proved able to provide the monetary aggregates and the
counterpart analysis required, and - with a little fine-tuning - to meet the
needs of a statistical basis for reserve requirements, details of which were
also finalised in the autumn. We were thus able to begin publishing monetary
statistics only a few days after the final decisions were taken (at the
Council meeting on 1 December), and were able to publish with some estimation
last month back data on the three monetary aggregates monthly to 1980, and a
note urging caution on users of the earlier data.
However, the monetary strategy avoids putting too much weight on one area or
type of information. This is only partly for statistical reasons. The
formation of the euro area is a substantial structural change, which may in
time affect monetary and financial relationships. So the ECB also examines a
range of economic data for the light they shed on the assessment of the
economic situation and, in particular, prospects for inflation. The editorial
and economic developments sections of the Monetary Bulletin show the way the
ECB draws on this information; the statistical information itself is set out
in tables in the statistical section. Thus, in addition to money and credit
and the HICP, the editorial typically touches on GDP, industrial output,
capacity utilisation, orders, the labour market, business and consumer
confidence, costs and prices other than the HICP, earnings and wage
settlements, fiscal positions - naturally placing the emphasis on what are
judged to be the most important developments at the time. All these areas
were covered by the statement of requirements made in 1996.
I do not need to say that, at present, an accurate assessment of the economic
situation in the euro area is of vital importance. The editorial section of
the March Bulletin concludes that the overall outlook for price stability
remains favourable, with no major risk that HICP inflation will exceed 2% in
the near future, but there is nevertheless a balance of conflicting
influences. To reach this judgement, the Bulletin assesses the latest GDP
data (slower growth in the provisional Eurostat figures for GDP in the 4th
quarter of 1998; declining manufacturing output), the labour market
(unemployment falling slightly; some signs of rising pay settlements), and
confidence indicated by opinion surveys (business confidence weak; the
consumer mood rather optimistic). The economic developments section supports
the overall conclusion, and analyses in more detail price and cost
developments and of output, demand and the labour market. It concludes with
analysis of the fiscal position in the euro area in 1998, and a preview based
on fiscal plans for 1999. I am drawing your attention to this to show the
variety of material supporting the ECB's assessment of the economic and
financial position and prospects. Although we pay particular attention to
certain items - the monetary statistics, with an emphasis this time on
influences contributing to recent faster growth, and to the rather rapid
growth of credit, and the HICP - we draw on a wide range of information in a
continuous monitoring exercise. The establishment of an institution
responsible for monetary policy in the euro area has caused a fundamental
change in the use of macroeconomic statistics at European level, very much as
anticipated by the Implementation Package nearly 3 years ago.
Priorities for further improvement of statistics
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Eurostat for their efforts to
improve the quality and comparability of economic statistics relating to the
euro area, and to deliver them to the ECB on a timely manner. They have given
this high priority and much progress has been made in the last year or so.
Further improvement will come with the introduction of the new European
System of Accounts [ESA95] starting next month (although we must expect some
temporary confusion following the introduction of a new system). Experience
suggests that substantial statistical changes initially bring classification
problems. Although, of course, provision has been made for back data to be
available on the closest possible approximation to the new basis, we must
also expect some discontinuity in important series. Implementation of last
year's short-term Statistics Regulation will bring improvements across a wide
range of conjunctural statistics not covered by ESA95. There are also
initiatives to improve labour market statistics. With Eurostat, who are
responsible for all these areas of statistics at European level, we do our
best in the ECB to promote better data. Perhaps I should underline our
support here for the priorities established last year by a working group of
the Monetary Committee (the current Economic and Financial Committee), in
which Yves Franchet and two of my ECB colleagues participated (Peter Bull and
Gert Jan Hogeweg): in addition to quarterly GDP and short-term conjunctural
statistics, these were government finance statistics, data relating to the
labour market (including labour costs), and the balance of payments. At
present the lack of comparable national statistics during the course of the
year makes it difficult to monitor the fiscal stance in the area as a whole,
and so to assess the balance of fiscal and monetary policy. Better labour
market statistics are important, not only for the ECB's assessment of
possible inflationary pressure, but also to improve understanding of the
structure of labour markets in our countries, and the rigidities which impede
the achievement of fuller employment. Balance of payments statistics - a
shared responsibility of the ECB and Eurostat at European level - require a
new approach in compiling data for the euro area as a whole. We intend to
publish the first monthly data for the euro area following the new
methodology next month, and to begin joint publication of a quarterly euro-
area balance of payments with Eurostat in the summer. But there are deeper
questions about future needs for balance of payments statistics in the new
circumstances which are currently being addressed. Principally, the question
arises of the usefulness for policy purposes of national balance of payments
statistics for Member States participating in Monetary Union. There is no
question, of course, that certain data in this area are needed within the
ESA95 framework of national and financial accounts.
The organisational, legal and technical infrastructure
I have talked mainly about statistical requirements and their provision, but
this is only part of the story. The Treaty (specifically in Article 5 of the
Statute of the ESCB and the ECB) clearly envisaged that the ECB would perform
statistical functions, assisted by and in co-operation with national central
banks, other national authorities, the Commission (meaning in this context in
particular Eurostat), and international organisations. A large part of the
preparatory work carried out by the EMI consisted of sorting out who would do
what, avoiding so far as possible duplication, wasted effort and conflicting
data, and keeping the whole development consistent with international
statistical conventions. Much of this had to be framed in legal instruments,
which would complete the statutory framework provided by the Treaty and the
ESCB/ECB Statute. Although work on an EU Council Regulation concerning ECB
statistics began as early as 1996, the Regulation could not be finalised
until last autumn and the ECB could not adopt legal instruments on statistics
in advance of that event - much work in this area therefore had to be done at
the last minute.
Information Technology is another of my responsibilities at the ECB. I am
glad to say that essential elements of our data transfer and statistical
processing systems were in place when I arrived, or brought into operation
soon afterwards. But here, too, there is room for further improvement - the
EMI and the ECB in these early months have had so much to do in relation to
the resources available that, broadly speaking, only the essentials have been
provided so far.
Conclusion
"Nothing is more important for monetary policy than good statistics." The
formation of Monetary Union has shifted the focus of interest on to data
covering the euro area as a whole. This has required substantial changes to
statistics, which need time to settle down and are some way short of
completion. At the same time, the adoption of the single currency is itself a
massive structural change. This will surely affect economic and financial
relationships and make any data harder to interpret, although these deeper
effects may occur over a period and take some time to become apparent. What
is clear, however, is that the ECB must take policy decisions and explain
them publicly in terms of the data available relating to its policy
responsibility. What we continue to strive to do, through our own efforts and
with the help of Eurostat, is to improve the quality of the data underlying
policy decisions, which are so important in gaining public understanding and
acceptance for them.
                                       ***                                       
                  The tasks and limitations of monetary policy                  
                       Speech delivered by Christian Noyer                       
                  Vice-President of the European Central Bank,                  
           at the Volkswirtschaftliche Tagung of the Oesterreichische           
                                  Nationalbank,                                  
                            on 10 June 1999 in Vienna                            
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me to be here in Vienna today and I should like to start
by thanking the conference organisers for giving me the opportunity to
elaborate on the tasks and limitations of monetary policy.
This topic is extremely important. Looking back over the history of economic
thought, it is clear that the perception of what monetary policy can do and
what it cannot or should not do has changed. This has clearly shaped the role
of monetary policy in economic policy. In the 1960s economic theories
suggested a long-run trade-off between inflation and output. These theories
provided the intellectual basis for policy-makers to pursue monetary policies
biased towards higher inflation. The high inflation experience of the 1970s
together with new theoretical findings, especially on the role of
expectations, led policy-makers to move towards lowering and stabilising
inflation.
Theoretical considerations as well as empirical evidence over several decades
suggest that high rates of inflation are clearly unhelpful - indeed
detrimental - to growth and employment in the long term. A large number of
economic arguments point to the benefits of price stability for economic
growth and employment prospects. Stable prices eliminate economic costs such
as those arising from unnecessary uncertainty about the outcome of investment
decisions, the distortionary effects on the tax system, rising risk premia in
long-term interest rates and the reduced allocative effectiveness of the
price and market systems. To quote Alan Greenspan, chairman of the United
States Federal Reserve, "Price stability is achieved when the public no
longer takes account of actual or prospective inflation in its decision-
making." Monetary policy must take into account the fact that the horizon for
decisions by economic agents is rather long-term in nature. By guaranteeing
price stability, monetary policy supports the efficient functioning of the
price mechanism, which is conducive to the allocation of scarce resources.
Price stability is a means of promoting sustainable economic growth and
employment creation and of improving productivity levels and living
standards.
Against this background, the predominant view has emerged that the best and
most lasting contribution that monetary policy can make to long-term economic
welfare in the broader sense is that of safeguarding price stability. Central
banks throughout the world have been moving towards adopting long-term price
stability as their primary goal.
In order to achieve this goal most successfully, independence from political
interference and a clear legal mandate for price stability are of the utmost
importance. A lack of central bank independence and an ambiguous mandate can
easily force central banks to focus on the short term and, thus, fail to
adopt the forward-looking, medium-term orientation that is crucial for a
successful monetary strategy.
All these issues were taken into consideration by policy-makers when drafting
the Treaty establishing the European Community and designing the blueprint
for the European Central Bank. Both central bank independence and an
unequivocal commitment to price stability are therefore tenets of the
monetary policy framework enshrined in the Treaty. There can be no doubt that
the European Central Bank (ECB) is determined and well-equipped to tackle its
main task, namely, that of maintaining price stability in the euro area over
the medium term. It will thereby make a significant contribution to the
achievement of other Community objectives such as high employment and
sustainable non-inflationary growth. In this connection, the pursuit of sound
macroeconomic policies by the EU Member States would considerably facilitate
the task of the ECB. The room for manoeuvre in monetary policy and the degree
of success in terms of maintaining price stability are crucially dependent on
the support of sound fiscal policies and responsible wage settlements in the
euro area.
The Treaty establishing the European Community states that the primary
objective of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) is to maintain price
stability. Without prejudice to this objective, the ESCB shall support the
general economic policies in the European Community. It shall operate in a
manner that is consistent with the establishment of free and competitive
markets. The Treaty states explicitly how the ESCB shall set its priorities.
Price stability is the first goal of the monetary policy of the Eurosystem,
and a contribution to the achievement of the other objectives of the European
Community can only be made if this primary objective is not compromised.
However, there is ultimately no incompatibility between maintaining price
stability and pursuing these other objectives. By maintaining price
stability, the ECB will also contribute to the achievement of other Community
objectives.
Of course, the ECB is concerned about the intolerably high level of
unemployment in Europe, but we should realise that the role of monetary
policy in reducing unemployment in Europe can only be very limited. Many
empirical studies show that the high unemployment rate is mostly the
consequence of structural rigidities within the European labour and product
markets. The European unemployment rate has, indeed, been high and stable
over the business cycles in the past decade. Only structural reforms,
preferably of a comprehensive nature, can therefore tackle the underlying
impediments to employment growth.
The monetary policy of the Eurosystem is geared towards the euro area as a
whole and, thus, cannot take into account purely national and regional
developments. The cyclical positions of participating countries have not yet
completely converged, although, with the single currency in place, some
national differences may disappear over time. This requires national policies
and labour and goods markets to be increasingly flexible in order to be able
to respond effectively to economic shocks. Well-functioning labour and
product markets are therefore needed to allow adjustments to wages and prices
to be made if local economic conditions change.
Budgetary policies play a major role in conditioning monetary policy.
National fiscal authorities have to demonstrate their commitment to the
maintenance of price stability in the euro area over the medium term. In this
context, the Stability and Growth Pact is a crucial element. Its aim is to
encourage the pursuit of disciplined and sustainable fiscal policies by the
participating EU Member States and the prospective members. Sound public
finances, with lower public debt and tax burdens, contribute to a lowering of
long-term interest rates, reduce uncertainty and increase private capital
formation. They not only facilitate the task of monetary policy with regard
to the maintenance of price stability, but also strengthen the conditions for
sustainable growth conducive to employment creation. Conversely, unsound
fiscal policies tend to increase inflation expectations and force monetary
policy to keep short-term rates higher than would otherwise be necessary.
The single monetary policy has to be conducted independently of the short-
term political considerations of national governments. In this context, the
ECB cannot commit itself to move its interest rates in a certain way in
response to specific actions or plans of other policy-makers. Monetary policy
has to take into account the overall economic situation to assess the risks
to price stability. Direct ex ante co-ordination with fiscal authorities
might endanger meeting the primary objective and would set the wrong
incentives for the conduct of sound macroeconomic policies. This does not, of
course, exclude a constructive dialogue between the Eurosystem and government
authorities which clearly respects the independence of the ECB.
When dealing with one of the major world currencies and with the currency of
one of the two main world economies, it is inconceivable that price stability
might be maintained by setting an exchange rate target as an intermediate
objective. However, external developments including the exchange rate are
taken into account in accordance with our strategy, as they may have an
impact on domestic economic developments and thereby on price stability.
Referring to recent exchange rate developments in this context, it is
appropriate for me to quote the President of the ECB, Dr. W. F. Duisenberg,
who recently said that "the euro is a currency firmly based on internal price
stability, and therefore has a clear potential for a stronger external
value".
The absence of exchange rate targets for the euro vis-а-vis other major
currencies should not be misunderstood. For smaller, very open economies,
fixed exchange rates may be a very reasonable choice. The Austrian example is
one of the most prominent in this respect. By pegging the Austrian schilling
to the Deutsche mark for over twenty years, it proved possible to import
credibility and price stability. The increasingly close pegging of the
Austrian currency to the currency of its main trading partner was, among
other features of the Austrian policy mix, the driving force behind the
economic convergence process in the run-up to Stage Three of Economic and
Monetary Union (EMU). The credibility of the Austrian exchange rate target
was also underpinned by an income policy aiming at relatively high real wage
flexibility and a fiscal policy geared towards consolidation. All in all, the
Austrian model, which set out to guarantee stability in nominal and real
terms, has turned out to be very successful.
The example given by past Austrian experience is, I believe, very valuable.
It shows that the achievement of sustainable convergence with the euro area
can be assisted by means of an exchange rate target. The new Exchange Rate
Mechanism of the European Union, ERM II, may play a similar role for those
current and prospective EU Member States which have not yet joined Stage
Three of EMU.
The achievement of price stability is also of high importance for the
stability of the financial system. The financial system of the euro area
showed a high degree of stability during last year's period of financial
turbulence as well as during the rather dramatic structural shift connected
to the changeover to the euro. At the ECB, we play our part in the evolution
of the euro area financial system by providing it with stable monetary
conditions. By creating an environment of price stability, we allow private
sector agents to focus their attention on the questions that are most
relevant to their activities and to take advantage of benefits of this stable
environment, such as the lengthening of their planning horizons. There is a
lot of empirical evidence that safeguarding price stability is the optimal
contribution that a central bank can make to the maintenance of financial
stability and that those two goals are actually complementary.
I should like to conclude by saying that the main contribution of the single
monetary policy to the welfare of the people in the euro area will be the
maintenance of price stability in the medium term. The ECB is determined to
tackle this task and is well-equipped to do so. Our conviction is that the
economic performance of the euro area will benefit significantly from price
stability. This will ultimately facilitate the achievement of those
objectives, which underlie the general economic policies of the European
Community and the individual governments at the national level. However, the
economic problems in the euro area cannot be tackled by monetary policy
alone. We have to be realistic about the goals which can be achieved by
monetary policy. Neglecting the limitations of monetary policy and promising
too much could, in the long term, be detrimental to the establishment of a
stability culture in Europe, and could also lead to delays in implementing
the economic reforms that are crucial to achieving high growth and
employment.
                                       ***                                       
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