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Is Iceland an Optimal Currency Area?


  • Willem H. Buiter


The paper considers the pros and cons for Iceland adopting the euro as legal tender. The current Icelandic monetary arrangements are contrasted both with a unilateral adoption of the euro and with a full membership in the EMU. Microeconomic transactions costs savings argue in favour of either form of monetary union. Loss of seignoirage revenues does not seem to be an economic obstacle to either form of euroisation for Iceland. Loss of the lender of last resort is, however, a powerful argument against unilateral monetary union. The optimal currency area arguments (which concern the macroeconomic stabilization aspects of a permanently fixed exchange rate) are unfavourable to a unilateral monetary union, but the case against a full membership in the EMU is more balanced. The extraneous instability and excess volatility inherent in a marketdetermined exchange rate dominate the shock absorber properties of a flexible exchange rate when financial markets are highly integrated. On balance, the economic arguments favour a membership in the EMU, but not the unilateral adoption of the euro. Because Iceland is not a member of the EU, the political arguments against any form of monetary union are overwhelming. Without a EU membership, the transfer of national sovereignty to the ECB would lack political legitimacy. The lack of institutions for ensuring the political accountability of the ECB in Iceland means that euroisation of Iceland is unlikely to happen, except as part of Icelandic membership in the EU. Euroisation without a membership in the EU is simply unlikely to survive.

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  • Willem H. Buiter, 2000. "Is Iceland an Optimal Currency Area?," Economics wp10, Department of Economics, Central bank of Iceland.
  • Handle: RePEc:ice:wpaper:wp10

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Engel, Charles & Rogers, John H, 1996. "How Wide Is the Border?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(5), pages 1112-1125, December.
    2. Buiter,Willem H. & Corsetti,Giancarlo & Pesenti,Paolo A., 2001. "Financial Markets and European Monetary Cooperation," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521794404, March.
    3. Willem H. Buiter, 1999. "Alice in Euroland," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(2), pages 181-209, June.
    4. Fidrmuc, J. & Horváth, J., 1998. "Stability of Monetary Unions : Lessons from the Break-Up of Czechoslovakia," Discussion Paper 1998-74, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    5. Bayoumi, Tamim & Masson, Paul R., 1995. "Fiscal flows in the United States and Canada: Lessons for monetary union in Europe," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 253-274, February.
    6. Dowd, Kevin & Greenaway, David, 1993. "Currency Competition, Network Externalities and Switching Costs: Towards an Alternative View of Optimum Currency Areas," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 103(420), pages 1180-1189, September.
    7. Barry Eichengreen., 1996. "On the Links Between Monetary and Political Integration," Center for International and Development Economics Research (CIDER) Working Papers C96-077, University of California at Berkeley.
    8. Masson, Paul R & Taylor, Mark P, 1992. "Common Currency Areas and Currency Unions: An Analysis of the Issues," CEPR Discussion Papers 617, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lamberte, Mario B. & Milo, Melanie S. & Pontines, Victor, 2001. "NO to ¥E$? Enhancing Economic Integration in East Asia through Closer Monetary Cooperation," Discussion Papers DP 2001-16, Philippine Institute for Development Studies.
    2. Buiter, Willem H., 2000. "Optimal Currency Areas: Why Does The Exchange Rate Regime Matter?," CEPR Discussion Papers 2366, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Hilmar Tór HILMARSSON, 2016. "Iceland, economic integration and the European Union," REVISTA DE MANAGEMENT COMPARAT INTERNATIONAL/REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL COMPARATIVE MANAGEMENT, Faculty of Management, Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest, Romania, vol. 17(4), pages 373-391, October.
    4. Shimotsu, Tor, 2002. "Small Open Economy Model with Domestic Resource Shocks: Monetary Union vs. Floating Exchange Rate," Economics Discussion Papers 8841, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
    5. Nils Bjorksten & Anne-Marie Brook, 2002. "Exchange rate strategies for small open developed economies such as New Zealand," Reserve Bank of New Zealand Bulletin, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, vol. 65, March.
    6. Nils Bjorksten, 2001. "The current state of New Zealand monetary union research," Reserve Bank of New Zealand Bulletin, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, vol. 64, December.

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