The German Currency Union of 1990: A Critical Assessment

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Free intercirculation of coins was guaranteed in both groups but not at par: the exchange rate between the two units of account was fixed at one thaler for 1. Moreover, states remained free to mint non-standardized coins in addition to their basic units, and many important German states e. A full merger of all the currencies of the German states did not finally arrive until after consolidation of modern Germany, under Prussian leadership, in Following severance of its traditional ties with the German Zollverein after World War I, Luxembourg elected to link itself commercially and financially with Belgium, agreeing to a comprehensive economic union including a merger of their separate money systems.

Only Belgium, moreover, had a full-scale central bank. The Luxembourg franc was issued by a more modest institution, the Luxembourg Monetary Institute, was limited in supply, and served as legal tender just within Luxembourg itself.

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Despite the existence of formal joint decision-making bodies, Luxembourg in effect existed largely as an appendage of the Belgian monetary system until both nations joined their EU partners in creating the euro. Europe in the twentieth century has also seen the disintegration of several monetary unions, usually as a by-product of political dissent or dissolution. Almost immediately, in an abrupt and quite chaotic manner, new currencies were introduced by each successor state — including Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and ultimately even shrunken Austria itself — to replace the old imperial Austrian crown.

Comparable examples have also been provided more recently, after the end of the Cold War, following fragmentation along ethnic lines of both the Czechoslovak and Yugoslav federations. Most spectacular was the collapse of the former ruble zone following the break-up of the seven-decade-old Soviet Union in late Out of the rubble of the ruble no fewer than a dozen new currencies emerged to take their place on the world stage.

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Outside Europe, the idea of monetary union was promoted mainly in the context of colonial or other dependency relationships, including both alliance-type and dollarization arrangements. Though most imperial regimes were quickly abandoned in favor of newly created national currencies once decolonization began after World War II, a few have survived in modified form to the present day.

Alliance-type arrangements emerged in the colonial domains of both Britain and France, the two biggest imperial powers of the nineteenth century. First to act were the British, who after some experimentation succeeded in creating a series of common currency zones, each closely tied to the pound sterling through the mechanism of a currency board.

Währungsunion: Die Deutsche Mark für alle!, 1990

With a currency board, exchange rates were firmly pegged to the pound and full sterling backing was required for any new issue of the colonial money. Joint currencies were created first in West Africa and East Africa and later for British possessions in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean The British Caribbean Currency Board evolved first into the Eastern Caribbean Currency Authority in and then the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in , issuing one currency, the Eastern Caribbean dollar, to serve as legal tender for all participants.

Kitts and Nevis, St.

Monetary Unions

Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, plus two islands that are still British dependencies, Anguilla and Montserrat. Embedded in a broadening network of other related agreements among the same governments the Eastern Caribbean Common Market, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States , the ECCU has functioned without serious difficulty since its formal establishment in The other is in southern Africa, where previous links have been progressively formalized, first in as the Rand Monetary Area, later in under the label Common Monetary Area CMA , though, significantly, without the participation of diamond-rich Botswana, which has preferred to rely on its own national money.

But with the passage of time the degree of hierarchy has diminished considerably, as the three remaining junior partners have asserted their growing sense of national identity.

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  6. Moreover, though all three continue to peg their moneys to the rand at par, they are no longer bound by currency board-like provisions on money creation and may now in principle vary their exchange rates at will. Though each of the two currencies is legal tender only within its own region, the two are equivalently defined and have always been jointly managed under the aegis of the French Ministry of Finance as integral parts of a single monetary union, popularly known as the CFA Franc Zone.

    The German Currency Union of 1990: A Critical Assessment

    Elsewhere imperial powers preferred some version of a dollarization-type regime, promoting use of their own currencies in colonial possessions to reinforce dependency relationships — though few of these hierarchical arrangements survived the arrival of decolonization. The only major exceptions are to be found among smaller countries with special ties to the United States. Most prominently, these include Panama and Liberia, two states that owe their very existence to U.

    East Germany founded 60 years ago

    In similar fashion during World War II, Liberia — a nation founded by former American slaves — made the dollar its sole legal tender, replacing the British West African colonial coinage that had previously dominated the local money supply. Other long-time dollarizers include the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau, Pacific Ocean microstates that were all once administered by the United States under United Nations trusteeships. Most recently, the dollar replaced failed local currencies in Ecuador in and in El Salvador in and was adopted by East Timor when that state gained its independence in The most dramatic episode in the history of monetary unions is of course EMU, in many ways a unique undertaking — a group of fully independent states, all partners in the European Union, that have voluntarily agreed to replace existing national currencies with one newly created money, the euro.

    Moreover, even while retaining political sovereignty, member governments have formally delegated all monetary sovereignty to a single joint authority, the European Central Bank. These are not former overseas dependencies like the members of ECCU or the CFA Franc Zone, inheriting arrangements that had originated in colonial times; nor are they small fragile economies like Ecuador or El Salvador, surrendering monetary sovereignty to an already proven and popular currency like the dollar.

    Rather, these are established states of long standing and include some of the biggest national economies in the world, engaged in a gigantic experiment of unprecedented proportions.

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    Not surprisingly, therefore, EMU has stimulated growing interest in monetary union in many parts of the world. Despite the failure of many past initiatives, the future could see yet more joint currency ventures among sovereign states. Bartel, Robert J. Bordo, Michael, and Lars Jonung.

    London: Institute of Economic Affairs, Capie, Forrest. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, Cohen, Benjamin J. Frieden, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, De Cecco, Marcello.


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