On Wednesday 17th October, Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of the euro, participated in a debate at the Oxford University Student Union. He was there to defend the motion that "the euro is stronger than it has ever been". His debating opponent was the British MP Daniel Kawczynski.
During the debate, the Vice-President pointed out the many benefits of the euro, such as helping cross-border business, leading to lower interest rates and more stable prices, and making travelling around Europe a lot simpler. With all the benefits of the euro, he said, it is not surprising that 70% of Europeans think it is a good thing for the EU.
To defend his position that the euro is stronger than ever today, the Vice-President listed some of the new tools put in place to strengthen the Economic and Monetary Union following the crisis, such as the European Semester, the European Stability Mechanism, and the Banking Union.
But the Vice-President also argued that the euro helped Europe through the crisis, by avoiding a repetition of the competitive devaluation and inflation that Europe had seen in the past. He said: "Thanks to the euro, we sat down to find common solutions to the economic problems we were facing. Despite the still painful legacy of the crisis, today we are in the 6th year of continuous economic growth, and more Europeans have a job than ever before. "
During the debate, Vice-President Dombrovskis also looked back on his five years as Prime Minister of Latvia in times of economic and financial crisis, and how the goal of acceding to the euro helped Latvia concentrate on fixing reforming the economy and bringing the deficit under control. Latvia finally adopted the euro on 1st January 2014.
"Allow me to rewind a bit, and take you back to 2009. This was a time when my own country, Latvia, was going through a major crisis. It had just been hit by the global financial crisis, and there were domestic factors which led to it affecting us particularly hard. It was also the year when I became Prime Minister of Latvia. Some media were referring to this as "the worst job in Europe"… We had to work hard to fix our economy and bring our deficit under control. But during that whole time, the goal of joining the euro was also helping to concentrate our minds. And within 5 years, on 1st January 2014, Latvia adopted the euro. The reasons we wanted to join the euro area are true for Latvia as they are for all members of the currency union. They are about the benefits for people, businesses and countries from replacing 19 different currencies with one," said Vice-President of European Commission.
At the end of the debate, the Vice-President was declared the winner, with 91 votes against 71 in favour of the motion that the euro is stronger than ever.