Written Answers. - Maastricht Criteria for European Monetary Union.

Tom Moffatt

Question:

22 Dr. Moffatt asked the Minister for Finance the contingency plans, if any, which may be put in place if an insufficient number of EU member countries do not meet the Maastricht criteria for membership of Economic and Monetary Union: and the implications, if any, these plans will have for the Irish economy. [8477/96]

I take it that the Deputy's question concerns whether plans may be put in place to cater for the possibility that a majority of member states fail to meet the criteria for moving to Economic and Monetary Union.

Briefly, the Treaty on European Union provides that not later than 31 December 1996, the European Council will decide whether a majority of member states meet the conditions for moving to Economic and Monetary Union, whether it is appropriate for the Community to move to Economic and Monetary Union and if so, to set the date for Economic and Monetary Union to begin. The Treaty further provides that if by the end of 1997 no date has been set for Economic and Monetary Union to begin, it will begin on 1 January 1999. The Treaty does not require that a majority, or indeed any specific number of member states meet the criteria for Economic and Monetary Union to begin on 1 January 1999.

It was already clear at the time of the Madrid European Council last December that a majority of member states would not meet the criteria when the position fell to be examined later this year, thus precluding an early start to Economic and Monetary Union. Accordingly, the European Council confirmed then that Economic and Monetary Union would begin on 1 January 1999.