A convergência para a União Económica e Monetária: objectivo nacional ou constrangimento externo?
In Portugal, as in most other European Union (EU) countries, the challenge of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) has worked as a mechanism for economic stabilisation. However, the political consensus on the participation in EMU did not develop with respect to the need for implementing structural reforms and abolishing many of the policy distortions affecting the economy and to other goals of European integration, such as environmental quality, consumer protection or internal social cohesion, all of them pre-conditions for long-term development. Moreover, the objectives of EMU price stability and sound public finances were also not internalised in that consensus, although they were behind some crucial policy decisions, such as to join the EMS in 1992. During the entire macroeconomic convergence phase European monetary reform was regarded as an unavoidable external constraint that went together with an exogenous political objective. It was only due to the political consensus on not being left out of the EU core that the necessary consensus could be maintained to pursue a policy compatible with the objective of EMU participation throughout the heights of the European recession in Portugal (1993/94), the electoral year of 1995 and the two first years of a new legislature (1996/97) with a minority Government of a different political colour. This lack of internal objectives and economic and political strategy of integration surfaced and the political and social consensus broke once Portugal had joined EMU upon its inception.
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