BRUSSELS – The euro is celebrating its tenth anniversary against the background of the most difficult economic climate since its birth. The financial storm that swept in from the United States, and the onset of a severe economic downturn, confronts Europe with unprecedented challenges.
Faced with the biggest test in its history, the euro is far from steering into disaster, as the Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman predicted ten years ago. On the contrary, Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union is proving a major asset in these tumultuous times.
Doubters should remember that the euro was itself born out of crisis. The single currency was conceived as an answer to the upheavals of the postwar period – double-digit inflation, high unemployment, and speculative attacks on the pound, the lira, and the French franc. It was the crisis of the European Monetary System that drove the euro’s launch on January 1, 1999.
In ten short years, the euro revolutionized the global economic environment, rising to the status of the world’s second currency and rivaling the dollar as a medium for international trade and finance. The EMU is now the world’s largest market, and continues to grow. With Slovakia’s entry on January 1, the euro spans 16 countries and 329 million citizens.