INTRODUCTION The euro was launched on 1 January 1999. At the time it was unclear how this ambitious monetary integration project would fare, and there were many grave warnings that it could easily fail. But this did not happen. Indeed, the new currency’s emergence was, by any standards, a relatively smooth and comfortable process. This is all the more remarkable because the euro is shared by neighbouring countries that, within living memory, have engaged in the brutal, prolonged and industrialized destruction of each other’s populations. Today, war between the nations of Western Europe is absolutely unimaginable and the enmities that once existed have given way, not just to a permanent peace between independent countries, but to deep, shared sovereignty over a range of crucially important economic and political processes. The euro is both the most evident symbol and the deepest material form of this shared sovereignty. Figure 1.1 depicts the extent of the euro area which presently comprises 15 economies: the 11 that adopted the currency at the time of its launch, plus Greece and Slovenia, which joined in 2001 and 2007 respectively, and – since 2008 – Cyprus and Malta. Currently, the European Union (EU) has 27 members, so the euro area still has considerable scope for enlargement. Table 1.1 sets the euro area in an international context. Although it has a larger population than the United States and Japan – the two other members of the so-called ‘triad group’ of the world’s three largest economies – in GDP terms the euro area...
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