European monetary system and european currency
Based on selected papers kindly provided by the European Central Bank. Developments in the Financial Sector in Europe following the Introduction of the Euro. Economic and Monetary Union in Europe - the challenges ahead. Euro and European integration.
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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
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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
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.
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
1. Institutional framework
2. Industry scenario
3. Current supervision
4. Crisis management
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.
1. 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.
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