The single currency is one of Europe’s most significant and tangible achievements. It has helped our economies to integrate and has brought Europeans closer together. But it has always been much more than a monetary project.
It was conceived as a promise of prosperity – and that is how it must remain, also for those that will become members of the euro area in the future. That promise of prosperity became more important than ever as Europe was shaken by the financial and economic crisis.
The painful legacy of those years has left Europeans wanting more of what the single currency offers: more stability, more protection, and more opportunities. Determined action in response to the crisis to improve the instruments and architecture of the euro area partially met these expectations.
Today the EU economy is growing again and unemployment has fallen to its lowest level in eight years. But the euro area does not need only firefighters. It also needs builders and long-term architects. Our Economic and Monetary Union still falls short on three fronts.
First, it is not yet able to reverse sufficiently the social and economic divergences between and within euro area members that emerged from the crisis. But could it be that social and economic divergences are systemically inherent in the existing Eurozone set-up?
Second, these centrifugal forces come with a heavy political price. If they remain unaddressed, they are likely to weaken citizens’ support for the euro and create different perceptions of the challenges, rather than a consensus on a vision for the future.
Finally, while the EMU is stronger, it is not yet fully shock-proof. With the Rome Declaration signed on 25 March 2017, EU leaders committed to “working towards completing the Economic and Monetary Union; a Union where economies converge”. Now, this promise must be delivered. This requires political courage, a common vision and the determination to act in the common interest. A strong euro requires a stronger Economic and Monetary Union.