EMU odds continue to shorten

The odds that economic and monetary union (EMU) will go ahead on time were shortened this week as evidence mounted that "in" countries would meet the Maastricht criteria.

The most sceptical economist on The Independent's panel of experts, Stephen King of James Capel, now believes there is a 75 per cent likelihood that 11 countries will enter monetary union in January 1999. "Countries like Italy have made further progress in terms of reducing deficits. The arguments in favour of delay are getting weaker," Mr King said.

The panel said central bankers had successfully beaten off any threat that the Asian currency crisis would upset the exchange rate mechanism. Jean-Claude Trichet, Governor of the Bank of France, and Wim Duisenberg, head of the European Monetary Institute, had both made upbeat comments.

Lingering doubts focus on Germany. Four German academics will on Monday put a case to the country's constitutional court, which includes judges who have criticised a failure to keep strictly to Maastricht. However, the panel said the court is unlikely to come out against the German government, as long as the Bundesbank is in favour.

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