I am very pleased to be here with you and talking about European Monetary Union and wish to thank you for your invitation . It’s almost like a home from home for me here: I visit Frankfurt at least twice a month for ECB Governing Council meetings! I should add that I myself worked as a retail banker for 12 years. Today I am also speaking to you as a committed European and a friend of Germany. I am French but my family roots are in Saarland. My family has lived there since the end of the 18th century and its ceramics company, Villeroy & Boch, is part of the German “Mittelstand”. I love Germany, its language and its culture.
The impressive number of participants in today’s event is testament to the vitality of the Volksbanken Raiffeisenbanken. Through their ideas, Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen and Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch [founder of the Volksbanken] influenced many cooperative banking initiatives in Europe and throughout the world. The cooperative model has proved its resilience, first and foremost because it inspires confidence over the long term. These two core values of confidence and stability are also what characterise our single currency, the euro. This year it celebrated its 20th birthday. However, to optimise its benefits objectively, we need to overcome four clichés. I shall then turn to your banking industry and its three key challenges for tomorrow.
I. Overcoming four clichés in order to optimise the euro area.
I am fully aware of the criticisms and debates that exist here in Germany about the functioning of the euro area. Not everything is perfect; but Germany can be proud of having helped to create an internationally recognised currency inspired by its own core values: independence, respect for Treaties, price stability and a long-term approach. The ECB and the euro are the true descendants of the Bundesbank and Deutsche Mark. But today, if we want to move forward with a serene debate, we need to get rid of four clichés.