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00.9 Program for the Study of Germany and Europe

Creating Stability: National Preferences and the Origins of European Monetary System

2000 – Mark Aspinwall


This essay compares the preferences of France, Italy, and Britain on the creation of the European Monetary System in 1978-1979, especially the Exchange Rate Mechanism, which stabilised nominal exchange rates. My claim is that the different conclusions reached by the governments (France and Italy in, Britain out) cannot be explained by economic circumstances or by interests, and I elaborate an intervening institutional variable which helps explain preferences. Deducing from spatial theory that where decisionmakers `sit' on the left-right spectrum matters to their position on the EMS, I argue that domestic constitutional power-. sharing mechanisms privilege certain actors over others in a predictable and consistent way. Where centrists were in power, the government's decision was to join. Where left or right extremists were privileged, the government's decision was negative. The article measures the centrism of the governments in place at the time, and also reviews the positions taken by the national political parties in and out of government. It is intended to contribute to the growing comparativist literature on the European Union, and to the burgeoning literature on EU-member-state relations.