National Tamers versus Global Tigers
Chapter 8: The seven-year war of the French franc (1991-98)
8. The seven-year war of the French franc (1991–98)* Je donnerai à la France un franc modèle, dont la parité ne changera pas aussi longtemps que je serai là.** Charles de Gaulle (1970, p. 143) A conceited German . . . imagines that he possesses the truth in science – a thing of his own invention but which for him is absolute truth. Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace, p. 757) The EMS crisis of 1992 to 1993 is usually regarded as a prime example of the impossibility of achieving a ﬁxed exchange rate regime in the context of ﬁnancial globalization and, in particular, of the futility of interventions on the exchange market. It is a generalization that has been widely subscribed to, but one which is not based on a balanced reading of European monetary developments during that time. Analysts have tended to focus on the unsuccessful defence of the parities of the Italian lira and pound sterling and their abandonment of the ERM, without adequately taking account of France’s success in maintaining the parity of its currency unchanged against the German mark over the period that began on 12 January 1987 – the date of the last realignment of the French franc in the EMS – and ended on 1 January 1999 – the date of France’s entry into EMU. Anchoring the franc to the mark with a ﬁxed parity was not a priority objective for France in the EMS, which the French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing had sponsored together with the German Chancellor...
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