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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le triste anniversaire de l’euro

by Olivier Mayer

A lacklustre Birthday for the Euro

Translated Friday 16 January 2009, by Karen Singleton

The single currency of the European Union, highly lauded for its alleged merits by European liberals has quietly celebrated its 10-year anniversary.

The 10th anniversary of the European single currency will go almost unnoticed. With no spectacular media or governmental event, which, otherwise, might have closed France’s presidency with pomp. The European Commission, never shy when it comes to self-congratulation, has shown itself particularly discreet. It restrained itself to the following declaration: « 10 years ago, this month, European leaders made the historic decision to introduce the Euro. Today, 320 million Europeans living in 15 countries, more than the population of the United States, use the same currency and benefit from the advantages of a single market. Furthermore, the Euro has enabled public finance stabilization and improved macroeconomic politics, thereby creating jobs. » The Commission welcomed the new arrival to the club, Slovakia, simply by issuing a commemorative 2 Euro coin for the occasion.

10 years ago the introduction of the Euro brought about other hopes; « It is, without a doubt, the most important event since the creation of the European Union by the Treaty of Rome », judged Valerie Giscard d’Estaing, former President of the Republic, on December 31st 1998. The same day, other political dignitaries added their voices. Jack Lang, Foreign Affaires committee president at the National Assembly honoured « the Euro’s founding fathers, particularly, François Mitterand, Helmut Kohl and Jacques Delors ». « He added: They fought against the odds to make this dream a reality ». François Bayrou was not left out of this pontificating: « The birth of the Euro partly redeems a century marked by so many dramas. »

« An instrument for the multinationals benefit »

More prosaically, Michel-Édouard Leclerc judged that «there is going to be a downward alignment of supplier costs, which will benefit the consumer. » He predicted: « The Euro, far from being an inflationary factor, will be an accelerating factor for competition. » In saying this, the boss showed himself in agreement with the MEDEF [1] for which « the birth of the Euro represents a tremendous advance for Europe and the French economy. With the Euro, French companies should benefit from a greater interest rate stability and they will no longer be penalized by intra-European competitive devaluations. », underlined the business leaders organisation. Yet they warned, « The single currency is a challenge because, above all, the Euro means more competition and it will demand more from everyone. » There were nevertheless some dissenters. Alain Bocquet, president of the Communist Party group at the National Assembly, asserted, « The euphoria of this New Year’s Eve 1998 will not succeed in making us forget the evidence that the single currency will not bring about the predicted rosy future for Europeans. » He argued, « The Euro is a monetary instrument put in place for the economic war to benefit multinationals and the powerful. »

Which side does history agree with? On Wednesday the headline of La Tribune stated, « 10 years of the Euro hasn’t ended the hegemony of the dollar ». « The American currency remains the main mediium of exchange for transactions, invoicing and reserves. The Euro only competes with the dollar as a borrowing and lending currency. » Another daily newspaper, Le Figaro, declared, « The Euro celebrates its 10th year in a storm ». « No one is really in the mood for a celebration nor even to draw up a balance sheet. » « The banking and real-estate crisis has happened since, », it further underlined. « Spain and Ireland, for a long time the champions of growth within Euroland, have been hit the hardest by the upheaval in the world situation. »

Translator’s note:

[1The Mouvement des Entreprises de France or MEDEF (in English: "Movement of the French Enterprises") is the largest union of employers in France.

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