Adopting the euro in Central Europe : cross-national variations in the strategies of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia
This thesis argues that the prospect of joining the euro-zone plays a predominant role in designing monetary and fiscal policies in the so-called Visegrad countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. Despite generally agreeing with the objective of European Monetary Union (EMU) membership and being shaped by common features, cross-national variations persist in the Visegrad countries' strategies for the adoption of the euro. The puzzle solved here is why the new EU members respond in country-specific ways to the objective of joining the euro-zone. The analytical framework applied focuses on domestic-level accounts of interests, ideas and institutions. The argument is that countries are not materially-driven generic units or unitary actors within the international system. Cross-national variations in approaching the euro-zone entry have to be understood by reference to a domestic-level analysis of interests, ideas and institutions. Evidence of this argument is provided by analysing the preferences of political parties and individuals on European integration and the euro. Opportunistic and economic interests help to understand the turns the Visegrad countries have made in their approach to adopting the euro, but interests do not explain why EMU accession acquired different meanings in the countries under review. Interests do not account for actor's ideas and therefore cannot motivate policy-makers' actions. This is not to claim that interests do not matter, but rather that ideas provide road maps for the euro-adoption strategies that fit different interests. Moreover this thesis argues that interests are constantly expressed through and mediated by institutions and demonstrates how institutional constraints arising from the electoral system, the degree of central bank independence and industrial relations affect the euro-adoption strategy. This thesis analyses the interplay of interests, ideas and institutions for each Visegrad country examined, and demonstrates their relative significance in understanding cross-national variations in their euro-adoption strategies.