Vienna seminar on the EU accession process on 14-15 December 2000
A high-level "Vienna seminar on the EU accession process", took place on 14 and 15 December 2000 in Vienna, bringing together representatives of the Eurosystem (the European Central Bank (ECB) and the national central banks of the 12 euro area countries) and the governors of the central banks of the 12 EU accession countries (Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia). Representatives from the European Commission and the EU Presidency also participated. The seminar was jointly organised by the ECB and the Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB), the Austrian central bank. The Vienna seminar is the second such seminar on the accession process, following the Helsinki seminar held in November 1999.
The purpose of the seminar was to deepen the discussion of important monetary policy issues to ensure a smooth future integration of accession countries' central banks into the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) and finally the Eurosystem. After the Helsinki seminar in 1999 had set out the general policy framework, the discussion this year focused on three specific issues: price dynamics in accession countries, the role of central banks in the accession process and co-operation between the Eurosystem and the accession countries' central banks.
The main points that have emerged from the discussion can be summarised as follows:
Accession countries will need to further advance the process of bringing down inflation rates in the years to come, while not delaying the much needed relative price adjustments within the economy. Such price adjustments are part of the process of transition and "real convergence" (catching-up) and will typically entail inflation rates that will, for some time, range above those prevailing in the euro area, and gradually approach them.
Nominal and real convergence should be pursued in parallel. Progress in nominal and real convergence will imply an orderly closing of the gap between the accession countries and the euro area economy, both in terms of per capita income and price levels. In this process, monetary policy needs to be supported by prudent fiscal and wage policies and adequate structural reforms.
No common prescription is appropriate for monetary policy strategies and for exchange rate policies before EU accession. Different regimes are feasible, as long as they are supported by an appropriate and stability-oriented economic policy stance.
The strict implementation of EU Treaty obligations in accession countries, in particular those concerning the independent status of the central bank, will be of fundamental importance for the integration of the accession countries into the European Union and, eventually, into the euro area.
Entry into the euro area will be based upon fulfilment of the convergence criteria. The Treaty establishing the European Community requires strict and sustainable fulfilment of these criteria, which will be applied to future euro area entrants in the same way as they have been in the past.
The ongoing dialogue between the Eurosystem and accession countries' central banks will be further expanded. In particular, the Eurosystem stands ready to enhance its central bank co-operation activities in all relevant areas, including economic and monetary policy analysis, payment systems, statistics, legal issues and other areas.
Participants were welcomed by the ECB's President, Willem F. Duisenberg, and the Governor of the OeNB, Klaus Liebscher, on the evening of 14 December. The Eurosystem was represented at the Vienna seminar by Mr. Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, member of the Executive Board of the ECB in charge of international and European relations, as well as by the deputy governors of the 12 national central banks. On the side of the accession countries, the meeting was attended by two representatives from each central bank, including the governors of the respective central banks.