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Paris seminar on the EU accession process

5 March 2004

The fifth central bank seminar on the European Union (EU) accession process was held in Paris on 4 and 5 March 2004, jointly organised by the Banque de France and the European Central Bank (ECB). The seminar was attended by governors and high-level representatives of the ECB, the 15 national central banks of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB), the central banks of the ten countries that will join the EU in May 2004 (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia) and the two countries negotiating accession to the EU (Bulgaria and Romania). The EU Presidency and the European Commission also attended the seminar.

Participants were welcomed by Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the ECB, and Christian Noyer, Governor of the Banque de France. The ECB was also represented by Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, member of the Executive Board.

As on previous occasions, the purpose of this seminar was to exchange views on important central banking issues ahead of EU accession, thereby helping to prepare the ground for a smooth integration of acceding country central banks into the ESCB and, eventually, the Eurosystem. This year’s seminar focused on monetary and exchange rate policies and the practical functioning of the Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERM II), budgetary discipline in the context of the Stability and Growth Pact and, finally, issues relating to financial standards, accounting regulations and corporate governance.

1. Monetary and exchange rate policies and the practical functioning of ERM II: Seminar participants discussed the practical functioning of ERM II, including the operational aspects. In this respect, current Member States’ experience with the exchange rate mechanism and the acceding countries’ experience with monetary and exchange rate policies in the run-up to EU membership were considered to be valuable in view of the new Member States’ future participation in ERM II. As stated in the Governing Council’s policy position on exchange rate issues relating to the acceding countries, which was published on 18 December 2003, the new Member States are expected to join ERM II at some point following accession.

Participants also underlined the relevance of the case-by-case approach to monetary integration in the new Member States. Participants pointed out that, because of large differences that exist between countries in terms of economic structures, exchange rate and monetary regimes and the degree of nominal and real convergence already achieved, no single path towards ERM II and the adoption of the euro can be identified and recommended.

2. Budgetary discipline in the context of the Stability and Growth Pact: Participants reiterated the importance of budgetary discipline, particularly in the context of the Stability and Growth Pact, for underpinning the credibility of the EU institutional framework and for supporting confidence. In this context, participants urged all current and new Member States to live up to their responsibilities.

3. Issues related to financial standards, accounting regulations and corporate governance: Participants highlighted the importance of sound and effective prudential regulation and supervision as key to enhancing financial stability and overall confidence within the enlarged EU. In relation to the EU Financial Services Action Plan, they discussed the challenges of implementing a new capital adequacy framework and the International Accounting Standards regulation. Participants pointed out that promoting consistency and convergence of supervisory practices and accounting standards would support further integration of financial sectors. Finally, participants stressed that enhancing corporate governance should be viewed as a critical line of defence against financial instability, and they discussed further efforts and initiatives in this area.

Following the forthcoming enlargement of the EU, the central bank seminars on the EU accession process will be discontinued. From May 2004, the central banks of the ten acceding countries will become part of the ESCB. This seminar was therefore the last one in the series. Previous seminars have been held in Helsinki (1999), Vienna (2000), Berlin (2001) and Genval (2002).

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