Britain urged to be in EMU from the start

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The Independent Online
Jacques Santer, EU president, yesterday called on Britain to join the first wave of European monetary union in 15 months' time. He painted a glowing picture of what monetary union could achieve for Europe as it moved into a new era and insisted it would start on schedule on 1 January 1999.

Only one major decision remained, on who would be in the first wave, and Mr Santer said this would be taken next spring during Britain's six- month EU presidency. "The United Kingdom has an opt-out. So the decision is in the hands of Her Majesty's government, parliament and the people," he told an audience in Glasgow.

"Naturally, we hope you will join us at the beginning or soon after. The time is right."

Mr Santer repeated the importance with which European monetary union was viewed for a single market, saying: "I cannot imagine the functioning of a great internal market with 15 member states and 15 different currencies." He said monetary union would lessen currency uncertainty, enhance competitiveness, give a new international monetary role of "immense importance" for the EU and make Europe more attractive to inward investment.

He said there was cause for optimism as the EU approached the next century with its economies improving, public spending being disciplined, interest rates low and the single market being "battened down".

But for the vision of a new Europe to succeed, it had to be able to create more jobs and there was a need for fresh initiatives on this.

The European leaders' summit in November would seek a targeted approach concentrating on entrepreneurship, adaptability and employability, he said, adding: "Old-fashioned restrictive practices are simply incompatible with the needs of modern, mobile, international capital."

The EU president was addressing a meeting of Scotland Europa, a body drawn from industry and public life to promote Scotland's interests in the EU.