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The launch of the euro on 1 January 1999 represented the fulfilment of a long-standing goal of European integration. The European Commission was actively involved in the process leading to the first decision by a the Heads of State and Government of the European Communities, on 1 and 2 December 1969 (Den Haag Summit), to establish a “Plan by stages towards Economic and Monetary Union (EMU)” during the year 1970. 1)

First of all, in February 1969, the European Commission stimulated the debate with a "Memorandum on the need for increased economic co-ordination and monetary co-operation in the Community" (Plan Barre, 12.2.1969).

Second, it produced a number of documents addressing shortcomings in economic integration and monetary co-operation, and thus prepared the ground for the decisions taken at the Den Haag Summit (1-2.12.1969), in particular, in its aide-mémoire of 19 November 1969 for that conference.

Third, after the decision at that summit to draw up a plan by stages in the following year (1970), the Commission created an inter-directorate working group which – in a laps of 6 weeks - produced the first plan by stages towards EMU at the European level. This plan was presented in the form of a "Communication of the Commission"on 4 March 1970 to the Councel of Ministers, and, most of its ideas ended up in the famous ’Werner Report’ in the autumn of that year.

There were two further attempts to launch EMU which, by coincidence, happened at 10-year intervals after 1969, in other words 1979 and 1989, before the euro was finally introduced in 1999. Two Presidents of the Commission played a leading role in the preparations; Roy Jenkins, whose speech - Firenze, 27 October 1977 on the need for greater monetary stability within the internal market accelerated the drive towards the creation of the European Currency Unit (ECU) and the European Monetary System (EMS) in March 1979, and Jacques Delors, chair of the expert group mandated by the Member States (Hannover, 1988) whose report on Economic and Monetary Union in April 1989 became the reference document for the Maastricht Treaty and for the implementation of EMU over the subsequent ten years – culminating in the introduction of the single currency on 1 January 1999.

1) See also the working paper by Ivo Maes published by the Belgium National Bank on "Macroeconomic and Monetary Policy-Making at the European Commission, from the Rome Treaties to the Hague Summit", WP 58, August 2004.

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