A challenge is a call to a difficult task; it entails the two notions of necessity and difficulty. The problems I have tried to describe are a challenge not only for practitioners, but also for the academic profession, because their solutions can hardly be found in a textbook and will only be invented if the creativity of practitioners will be supplemented with that of scholars.
I have been fortunate to operate in an environment in which no conflict has arisen between the central banking profession I have exercised for more than thirty years and the European conviction that, like many persons of my generation, I matured in my youth. Since the early ' 80s I have also been convinced that monetary union, i.e. a confluence of the two motives, was desirable and possible. At the same time, the challenges for the Eurosystem originate precisely from that confluence.
Moreover, when considering the uncertainties implied by the transition to Stage Three of EMU, we should not forget that Monetary Union will also reduce, or even eliminate, a number of risks. This has already been demonstrated, even before the actual introduction of the euro. Recent turmoil in international financial markets did not cause any significant disruption to exchange rates among currencies of the designated participants in Stage Three. This is a clear demonstration of the success of the EMU process.
The challenges are not solely economic in their nature, nor can their features be captured by the functional relationships economists are most familiar with. Although partly related to economic factors, their features are in fact tied to the special institutional environment to which the Eurosystem now belongs. They derive from the tension between the completion of the union in the monetary field and the incompleteness of the overall construction. It is a tension because in that environment the notion of the public interest is no longer as simply and statically defined as it was when the Nation-State was an all-pervasive reality and the jurisdiction of the central bank coincided with its jurisdiction. Inevitably, this tension runs through the institutions of the European Union, the Eurosystem itself, and even our minds.
The process of industry transformation will inevitably involve aspects that have traditionally been considered as sensitive by public authorities: suppression of jobs, location of facilities and headquarters. Financial transformation will also produce a hardening of competition and competition will be, to a considerable extent, one between national financial centers and industries, not only between individual banks or institutions. The propensity to defend national champions may prevail over the pursuit of efficiency. The risk for the Eurosystem to fall in the trap of an improper interplay between the EU and the national dimension of the public interest may become high. Like any central bank, the Eurosystem should be both active and neutral in the great transformation of "its" financial industry. The word "system" that is part of its own name refers, and should apply in practice, to the whole euro area.