Launch Of The Euro: Werner's Vision: Founder's currency dream comes true

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The Independent Online
MANY HAVE played a part in Europe's monetary union project but Pierre Werner can justifiably claim to have started it.

Werner, then prime minister of Luxembourg, first advocated a European currency, which he called the Euror, in a speech in Strasbourg in 1960.

Thirty-eight years later, he told Reuters in an interview: "There was a historical need for European countries to start a currency union, which still exists. It is simply to put an end to the periodic world wars which started in Europe."

Mr Werner remembered the 1930s, when "everyone wanted to protect themselves and devalue to promote exports". He became interested in a proposal by a Belgian banker, Fernand Collin, for wider use of a common unit of account in the new European Community. "I believed that if [the 1930s] happened again it would be a shambles - we would have monetary war."

After becoming prime minister in 1959, he took up the cause publicly. But it was not until the late 1960s, after sterling's November 1967 devaluation, and signs of trouble in the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates, that other member states took an interest.

Mr Werner was appointed chairman of a committee to come up with an official blueprint, which was presented in1970 and endorsed by European leaders in March 1971. It called on the bloc to achieve a full monetary union by 1980.

The Werner Plan advocated a central economic policy- making body and a system of central banks. Aspects of national budgets, such as the "size of balances and the methods of financing or utilising them", would be fixed at EU level, and decisions would be accountable to the European Parliament.

The first stage of the plan was set in motion in 1972, but by 1974 it had foundered under the combined weight of the 1971 collapse of Bretton Woods and the 1973 oil shock.

Mr Werner told Reuters he was optimistic that the euro would last, noting that EU governments were more willing to negotiate and compromise than their predecessors.

Mr Werner's role was honoured yesterday when he received the first copy of the EU's Official Journal, legally enacting the conversion rates into the euro.