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Lessons from the Euro’s First 25 Years

Prior to the introduction of the European single currency in January 1999, its architects foresaw a future of macroeconomic stability and accelerated growth. While the euro has delivered on some of these promises, it has failed to facilitate the continent’s economic and political integration.

FLORENCE – The 25th anniversary of the euro’s introduction, which has passed largely under the radar, offers an opportune moment to assess the current state of the greatest monetary experiment in modern history.

The euro’s launch in January 1999 polarized economists. In the face of much skepticism – the late American economist Martin Feldstein even argued that the single currency could trigger a war in Europe – the euro’s architects envisioned a future characterized by macroeconomic stability, anchored by an independent central bank and a fiscal framework geared toward stability. Structural reforms, which the European Union’s member states were expected to implement, were meant to enhance the monetary union’s capacity to adjust to shocks.

None of those scenarios materialized. Over the past quarter-century, the euro has shown extraordinary resilience, navigating through several critical challenges and defying early predictions of its collapse. But while the single currency has delivered on some of its promises – most notably, maintaining price stability for most of its existence – it has failed to boost Europe’s potential growth or facilitate the continent’s full economic and political integration.