U.S.-European Monetary Relations

By Samuel I. Katz; American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Georgetown University | Go to book overview

MANAGED FLOATING
IN THE EUROPEAN COMMUNITY

C. J. Oort

The course of monetary events in Europe since the late 1960s is marked by grand designs, utter despondency, accidental successes as well as failures, and generally a complete lack of a clear, common, and consistent strategy. Blocked by their failure to think and act alike, the countries of the European Economic Community have stumbled through the international monetary crises without a common sense of direction and hence without any real influence on the course of events. The objective story is told by Table 1 and Figures 1 and 2. What stands out is the adventures of the "snake," for only the snake represents a specifically European experience.

In what follows I want to color the objective picture with my personal interpretation, based on subjective opinions and possibly tinted also by my national background and experience. The Netherlands has adhered to the snake from the start and has never left it. We tend to think of the European monetary scene as consisting of the snake and of errant outsiders. Others may well interpret the present situation quite differently: as a group of individually floating currencies--the deutsche mark, the pound sterling, the French franc, and the Italian lira--and some satellites that have hitched their exchange rates to one of the majors. Has the snake in fact become a deutsche mark bloc? Could it again become the common exchange-rate arrangement for the EEC as a whole? If not, or if not in the foreseeable future, what other arrangements can we devise? Or is the present situation satisfactory for the time being?

Those are some of the questions that we ask ourselves in the EEC today. In commenting on them, I shall pay special attention to the proposals now being discussed in the community to set up a system of "rules for floating" based on the concept of target zones for effective exchange rates. These proposals are part of the Duisenberg plan to reactivate the coordination of economic policies generally.

First, I want to present a brief description and a personal view of the snake, followed by a review of various suggestions that have been made to improve the present snake arrangement.

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