BBC Radio 4

    In Business: A Cyclist's View of the Euro

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    Years ago, in a previous millennium, I made a programme called The Cyclist's Guide to the Euro.

    It was curious... so curious that I still cannot understand how we managed to convince Radio 4 to commission it.

    The idea was a simple one: take a bicyclists' look at the great Euro project. Cycling fanatics such as the Independent's travel whiz Simon Calder helped to bring credibility to the cycling bits.

    The clever investment guru David Roche took us to Maastricht, a great centre of European convergence.

    He is also a cycling fanatic, and he brought a historical perspective to the long evolution of Europe, dating back to the Holy Roman Empire and the invention of the kingdom of Belgium in the early 1830s.

    The then MEP Christopher Huhne showed us round the peripatetic European Parliament during one of its sojourns in Strasburg. I do not think he was a cyclist, but he tried to justify the great European project over a jolly nice lunch in the Parliament's canteen.

    Memorably, a veteran European diplomatist gave us the glue that eventually held the programme together.

    "It's just like bicycling," he said. "The European project has to keep pedalling, otherwise it would fall over."

    In other words, the people at the heart Europe have to keep thinking up clever wheezes to edge the project on, lest it lose all momentum.

    The programme went out right at the end of 1991, when the Euro was getting up steam.

    As an everyday cyclist, pedalling to keep upright, my questions were sceptical - and sceptical about pedalling ever faster to keep the ball rolling.

    The Euro seemed to be a politicians' construct, one of those plots that once named and unveiled is deemed to have happened.

    Well, it now seems that what happened was the easy bit. In strictly economic terms, a single currency did not make much sense unless lots of other things accompanied it.

    As we now know, the politicians thought they had created a more united Europe by inaugurating Euroland without many of the features that functional currency zones need: a strong central bank, for example, some kind of unifying tax and public spending framework, and perhaps labour mobility of the kind common in the USA.

    The top Canadian economist called The Father of the Euro, Professor Robert Mundell of Columbia University, talked about these missing links for the new currency in an In Business stuffed with Nobel Prize winners last autumn.

    Thus it is that within 10 years of the creation of the Euro, there's a grand and elongated crisis which was almost inevitable.

    What's the solution to the Euro mess?

    Stay the course, say the enthusiasts, a process also known by the non-economic term "kicking the can down the road".

    In the first of the new series of In Business, I met a clutch of Euroland business leaders big and small

    This crisis will pass; respect the Europe project... keep on pedalling.

    • Do you think the eurozone can continue in its current form?
    • While governments and businesses might want tighter eurozone integration - do they people?
    • If you don't think the euro has a future, what will replace it?

    Listen to In Business: Euro Peril on Thursday 19, July at 20:30

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