The Private ECU: How it Functioned and How it Could Have Evolved

Michel Lelart Directeur de recherche émérite au CNRS, Laboratoire d’économie d’Orléans. Contact :

Now that it is no longer a taboo to consider the exit of a country from the euro area, it may be appropriate to revisit the different stages that led to the introduction of the single currency. Before the commitment made to that effect in the late 1980s, a common currency had begun to be used, albeit modestly, by the countries participating in the European Monetary System, as well as by a few other countries. This private ecu, as it was called, could have become the common currency for the Community to be used for transactions between two countries, without replacing the national currencies. This set-up would have been along the lines described by Keynes at the international level at the end of WW2.

This paper reviews the operational aspects of the private ecu system and compares this Community currency with the concept of the “parallel currency”, which was often invoked.

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