EMU: Ready, or Not?

Maurice Obstfeld

NBER Working Paper No. 6682 (Also Reprint No. r2236)
Issued in August 1999
NBER Program(s):International Finance and Macroeconomics

In this paper I focus on two specific hazard areas in the transition from Stage Two to Stage Three of European economic and monetary union (EMU), as well as on some key problems of Stage Three that EMU's monetary and fiscal structures appear ill-prepared to handle. The transitional hazards are of considerable theoretical as well as policy interest: the best way to coordinate monetary stances and lock exchange parties for a smooth switch from eleven national currencies to a single joint currency. A third problems, one that is central for EMU and to any currency union, lies behind the difficulty of the transition: the possibility of nationally asymmetric real shocks. I review that topic in the context of Ireland's recent experience. The paper goes on to discuss weaknesses in the structure of Stage Three, already much noted, connected with the provision of lender of last resort facilities in the euro zone and the framework for supervising financial institutions. The deficit and debt limits embodies in the excessive deficits procedure of the Maastrich treaty and the subsequent Stability and Growth Pact have been justified by the threat high debts might pose to the stability of the euro zone's financial markets. I consider the past and prospective fiscal adjustments of the EMU 11, and suggest these might pose future difficulties for macroeconomic policy and growth.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w6682

Published: Princeton Essays in International Finance, no. 209, July 1998

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