Leaders of the EU’s main institutions called on member states to complete the reform of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), admitting mistakes were made in managing the eurozone debt crisis.
As the euro turns 20, leaders met in Strasbourg to celebrate the introduction of the single currency, on 1st January 1999. Two decades later, more than 337 million EU citizens in 19 countries use the euro on a daily basis.
“The euro is the most tangible representation of the European integration that our citizens experience,” European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said.
“When we launched the process that led to the creation of the common currency we were told we were crazy,” European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker recalled, adding: “we hear less of those voices today.”
Mr Juncker, who was one of the architects of the euro and chaired the Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers during the financial crisis, conceded that mistakes were made during the debt crisis, and admitted that citizens paid a heavy price.
“There has been reckless austerity. We were not sufficiently solidary with Greece,” he added, saying “we should have done more in terms of coordinating economic policies, including budgetary and even fiscal policies.”
“We must relaunch this debate that is essential for the construction that is before us,” the Commission President stressed.
While the 2008 financial crisis proved the EU was not prepared for such a major economic shock, it also showed the euro project was resilient enough to survive, the leaders said, calling for the monetary union to be completed.
Malta has repeatedly pledged its commitment to establishing a more robust eurozone. In September, Finance Minister Edward Scicluna lauded the benefits brought about by the EMU, and said that policies were needed that make the financial system more stable.