FRANKFURT – There is a common misconception that the euro area is a monetary union without a political union. But this reflects a deep misunderstanding of what monetary union means. Monetary union is possible only because of the substantial integration already achieved among European Union countries – and sharing a single currency deepens that integration.
If European monetary union has proved more resilient than many thought, it is only because those who doubted it misjudged this political dimension. They underestimated the ties among its members, how much they had collectively invested, and their willingness to come together to solve common problems when it mattered most.
Yet it is also clear that our monetary union is still incomplete. This was the diagnosis offered two years ago by the so-called “Four Presidents” (the European council president in close collaboration with the presidents of the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the Eurogroup). And, though important progress has been made in some areas, unfinished business remains in others.
But what does it mean to “complete” a monetary union? Most important, it means having conditions in place that make countries more stable and prosperous than they would be if they were not members. They have to be better off inside than they would be outside.