Commissioner Joaquín Almunia's opening address to the 2008 Brussels Economic Forum on 15 May looked back with pride on the first decade of the single currency. This year's Forum coincided with the 10th anniversary in May 1998 of the landmark decisions which paved the way for Economic and Monetary Union and the launch of the euro in 1999.
With more than 1100 registered participants, including over 120 media representatives, the Brussels Economic Forum gathered members of government authorities, international organisations, financial institutions and academia, who engaged in lively debate with high-profile speakers selected among policy-makers and experts. Over two days, 15 and 16 May, they discussed in Brussels the achievements of Economic and Monetary Union ten years on, and the future challenges facing EMU as regards growth and employment, deepened coordination and improved governance, and globalisation.
Commissioner Almunia opened the Forum with a keynote address where he outlined the main achievements of what he described as a "crucial stepping stone to ever closer union”’. From day one, he told the audience, EMU created a zone of macroeconomic stability and put an end to traumatising exchange rate realignments, noting that without the euro today, the present turmoil in financial markets would be placing enormous strains on euro area economies with serious consequences for trade and investment. “We ought to recall this simple fact, for those who forget our past monetary turbulences”, he reminded listeners.
Looking ahead the Commissioner warned that, while EMU has left the Union stronger, not all is positive. Economic growth is too low in some Member States, productivity growth is much lower than expected and there are persistent divergences between Member States of the euro area which pose risks for the ability of the bloc as a whole to adjust to economic shocks.
To address these and other challenges the Commissioner proposed a three-pillar agenda for the future, including reinforced coordination and surveillance, developing a clear international strategy and better euro-area co-ordination, including between ECOFIN and the Eurogroup, which will become more important as the euro area enlarges.
The morning session on 15 May dealt with the assessment of ten years of EMU, while in the afternoon session II was dedicated to the place of EMU in the global economy, including references to the euro and the current financial market distress. Participants listened to keynote addresses delivered by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the Eurogroup, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the IMF. On the second day, session III focused on the agenda for EMU to realise its full potential and included two keynote addresses by Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank, and Guy Verhofstadt, Belgian Minister of State.
Wouter Bos, Pedro Solbes, Pervenche Berès, Tommaso Padoa Schioppa, Malcolm Knight, Haruhiko Kuroda, Stephen S. Roach, Adam Posen, Fernando Teixeira dos Santos, Mario Monti, Michalis Sarris, and Erkki Liikanen were other key speakers also taking part in the Forum.
You will find reports of the sessions and other useful materials in THE FORUM, the conference newspaper available on this Brussels Economic Forum page on this website, and later in the June issue of European Economy News, ECFIN's quarterly magazine.
The full recordings of the conference will soon be available on the Brussels Economic Forum web page, where speeches and presentations are also published in downloadable format.