Open Europe Blog

This post is part of a series of interviews carried out by our sister organization, Open Europe Berlin. To read the original interview between Otmar Issing, the former Chief Economist of the European Central Bank, and Open Europe Berlin in German click here.
Otmar Issing addresses the audience at the Open Europe Berlin launch, Oct.2012
OEB: What does Europe mean to you?

Issing: Following the terrible wars and dictatorships of the past, for me, Europe means a continent of peace and freedom.  The freedom to travel, and particularly for young people — to learn, study, and to make friends beyond national borders. The single market, a barrier-free market serving over 500 million people, is the economic dimension, and the prerequisite for prosperity and employment in Europe. 

OEB: What does the European Union mean to you?

Issing: The European Union embodies the institutional structures, which preserve the aforementioned achievements.  The European Union will live up to expectations only when the tendency towards centralisation and bureaucratisation are resisted. 

What does the euro, the shared currency, mean to you?

Issing:The euro represents a promise of a stable currency to the citizens of the euro area.  During the first 14 years of the euro, the central bank fulfilled this promise by way of its obligatory price stability policy.  However, the existing economic policies of many countries continue to be contradictory to [the ECB’s] policy, which is absolutely necessary to the guarantee of long-term stability for the euro and the eurozone. 

“If the euro fails, then Europe fails!” To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?  
Issing: Europe is far more than the euro. It is more than currency and economy. But a collapse of the euro, which I consider rather unlikely, would indeed cause considerable economic and political turbulence and it would set European integration back. 

‘More Europe’ in which form of the EU? In which policy areas should the European Union (a) do more; (b) change its practice; or (c) do less? 

Issing: ‘More Europe’ is a mantra, which in my opinion, lacks concrete content and easily leads to the misguided adoption of ever further centralization.  Should the EU wish to realize its aspiration of becoming the leading voice for Europe on the global stage then it must:

  • Create the preconditions for growth and employment;
  • Encourage the individual member states to take responsibility for the implementation of necessary reforms;
  • Accommodate the principle of subsidiarity, rather than continuing to shift competencies to the European level. 
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