Alexandre Lamfalussy was a Hungarian refugee from communism who emigrated to Belgium and went on to become a founding father of the euro. He was the first president of the European Monetary Institute, a short-lived institution created in 1994 with the sole purpose of setting up the European Central Bank and then willing itself out of existence.
Born in 1929, in Kapuvar, Hungary, Lamfalussy fled his homeland in 1949 as the Iron Curtain was sealing off eastern Europe. With three friends, he crossed the border to Austria then made his way to Belgium.
First an academic economist, then private banker and finally a central banker, Lamfalussy defended the euro as a risk worth taking after the sovereign-debt crisis that came close to shattering the currency. “The European Union couldn’t exist without monetary union,” he said in his 2013 memoir. “We had to do it the hard way, resolutely.”
Lamfalussy’s role in forging a path to monetary union began in 1976 when he embarked on a career at the Bank for International Settlements, the Base-based clearing house for the world’s central banks. In 1988 he joined a committee of central bankers who sketched a road map for the European currency. Turning the road map into reality became his job when the EMI was established in Frankfurt. Lamfalussy said in his memoir that he was approached to be the first head of the ECB, but declined because he was nearing 70. Belgium awarded him the title of baron in 1996.
Alexandre Lamfalussy, economist: born Kapuvar, Hungary 26 April 1929; married 1957 Anne-Marie Cochard (three children); died Ottignies, Belgium 9 May 2015.
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