Navigation – Plan du site
Notes de lecture

The Latin Monetary Union and the Balkans

Reflections inspired by Lucien Gillard’s new book, L’Union Latine, une expérience de souverainetés monétaires partagées (1865-1927)
Nikolay Nenovsky, Souleymane Ndao et Jacques Marie Vaslin
Référence(s) :

L’Union Latine, une expérience de souverainetés monétaires partagées (1865-1927), Paris, Classiques Garnier, 372 p.

Texte intégral

« The countries that are monetarily poor and where prices are low are thus in reality under the economic domination of the countries that are monetarily rich with high prices. »

Laveleye (1888, p. 63)

Introduction

1The elites as well as the entire population in the Balkan countries have always strived to be a part of Europe or at least to come closer to the economic, political and cultural development of the leading European countries. The Balkan economists and politicians followed closely and even copied mechanically the institutions of the developed European countries.

2Monetary regimes and institutions were no exception in this respect for they were closely bound to those of the leading European economies. This has been a long-term practice and we would even say an age-old tradition. Today it is manifested in the recourse to extremely static and passive monetary regimes such as Currency Boards, unilateral Euroization, fixed and strictly controlled exchange rates (Magnin & Nenovsky, 2016). Practice was the same in the past – the monetary regimes in the Balkans have always been subordinated and dependent. This dependence was present as regards the COMECOM, further back in time during the 1930s – as regards the monetary regime in Germany (clearing agreements) and during the 1920s – as regards the rules of the League of Nations. Going further back in time to the years of shaping up national states particularly at the end of the 19th century the picture was the same – the Balkan economies followed closely and copied the rules of the Latin Monetary Union (LMU). However, in a rudimentary form the LMU represented a certain form of a monetary union, which within definite limits reminds us of today’s Eurozone which the Balkan countries strive to join to one degree or another. Therefore, any study of the experience in the LMU years would be of a academic and practical benefit. Such a study if contextualized adequately would outline the limits of a possible joining of the Eurozone.

3The occasion for writing this text has been provided by Lucien Gillard’s new book, which offers rich historical and analytical material for the functioning of monetary relations among leading and peripheral European countries. The book makes it possible for us to reconstruct the monetary history of the Balkans at the end of the 19th and the first decade of the 20th century, until the Balkan wars of 1912/1913.

4Further on the text is structured as follows: at the beginning, we offer personal evidence for the needs of historical parallels of one of the authors (Nikolay Nenovsky in his capacity of a participant in the decision making of the Bulgarian National Bank as regards its attempts at joining the Eurozone). The second part is devoted to Gillard’s book that is the starting point of this article. The third part is more or less theoretical and is entirely dedicated to the formulated « hypothesis of incompatibility » of the peripheral monetary regime with that of the centre. The last fourth part offers some empirical illustrations of the proposed theoretical model.

1. On the Need of Historical Parallels

  • 1 Among the first to launch the idea of the unilateral Euroization were A. Bratkovski and the future (...)

5Lucien Gillard’s book, which will be dwelt upon below, takes one of us (Nikolay Nenovsky) almost twenty years back in time somewhere around 2000. A discussion was held at that time in Bulgaria and in other Balkan countries on the benefits and opportunities of adopting the euro as the official currency in the region. The procedure for Eurozone membership seemed cumbersome and almost impossible for countries like Bulgaria and it made us think about a unilateral and most probably uncoordinated introduction of the euro. The idea of ​​unilateral Euroization, albeit in violation of the enlargement rules was supported at various levels of government in Bulgaria and in other Eastern European countries1.

6Three economists from the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) published a text which was probably the first book in Eastern Europe aimed at evaluating in detail the costs and benefits, both economic and political ones of a possible unilateral Euroization (Nenovsky et al., 2001). Bulgaria was in a Currency Board monetary regime, an extremely conservative monetary system, in which the money supply was (and still is) limited to the balance of payments developments (Nenovsky and Hristov, 2002). The Bulgarian lev practically followed the development of the European monetary centre, initially Bundesbank and subsequently the European Central Bank and the euro. Against this background, the adoption of the euro was a small and effortless step. During the same period, Montenegro unilaterally adopted the euro thereby providing additional arguments for the benefits thereof, and for a possible « unhostile » reaction of the European authorities.

  • 2 At the initiative of one of us (Nikolay Nenovsky) jointly with Sophia Lazaretou, a monetary history (...)

7In the process of writing the book, entitled « From Lev to Euro: Which is the Best Way? Scenarios for Bulgaria’s Integration in EMU » (which was initially intended as a document of the BNB Governing Council), and subsequently in the work in the field of monetary history in the Balkans, one of us (Nikolay Nenovsky) often found interesting and in many ways similar discussions in the past about the need, possibilities and limits of accepting the monetary rules of the European core2.

  • 3 The membership chronology followed the chronology of gaining political independence from the Ottoma (...)

8In this context the knowledge of building an independent monetary system in Bulgaria after the Liberation in 1878, and the discussions about the adoption of the principles of the LMU (1865-1927) (or Latin Union as it was referred to at the time) offered a very interesting experience. During the LMU period, similarly to Romania (1867) and Serbia (1873), Bulgaria undertook the unilateral commitment in 1880 to follow the LMU rules3. Greece (1869) was the only Balkan country, which became an official member of the LMU and was the only Balkan country that became a member of the Eurozone a century later.

9Moreover when the Bulgarian authorities (above all those in the BNB) requested the unofficial opinion of the ECB as regards the possible unilateral membership a letter was received by its president Jean-Claude Trichet (a Frenchman) that it was undesirable due to the poor economic development of the country, due to the problems stemming from the weak statehood, due to corruption, etc. These events date back to the 2003-2005 period.

  • 4 The archival documents of that time do not clarify explicitly the motives for the denial of officia (...)

10At the same time, there is archival evidence that similarly to Trichet’s response another Frenchman (Félix Esquirou de Parieu) coordinating the LMU’s conferences responded as regards the membership applications of Bulgaria and Romania, emphasizing that the state in the Balkan countries is « unstable and weak, there are high levels of corruption and it cannot be guaranteed that public finances and money circulation shall be efficiently controlled under a membership »4.

11Irrespective of the repeated rejection of the application for LMU membership, the three Balkan countries (Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania) continued to stick to the LMU rules. Whenever they deviated from those rules they attempted at restoring the proportions of money circulation so that they might not drop out of the system altogether. In the late 19th century, the adoption of the LMU rules (the pegging to the French franc) was considered an obvious sign of credibility and financial discipline aimed at attracting European capital at a lower cost. Whether the very monetary policy of following the centre or the deviations from that policy, its violations (the frequent emissions of fiat (compulsory) paper currency) was efficient as regards the lowering of interest rates, investments growth and hence the modernization, convergence and catching up with the incomes of the rich is a different matter. We shall dwell on it further on.

12However, let us first turn to Lucien Gillard’s book, which has not only provided the occasion for writing this text but has also been the main source of our historical reconstruction.

2. Lucien Gillard’s New Book on Latin Monetary Union and Its Basic Ideas

  • 5 There have been extensive analyses lately, see Gillard’s bibliography.

13Lucien Gillard’s book L’Union Latine, une expérience de souverainetés monétaires partagées (1865-1927), published in the series managed by André Tiran, of the Classiques Garnier publishers adds to our knowledge not only about the LMU but about monetary unions in principle. At the same time, the book refutes numerous economic claims setting a limit to our positive expectations as regards the monetary unions per se. Without exaggerating Gillard’s book is the most fundamental study of the LMU that has come out so far from a historical but also from a theoretical viewpoint. The monograph covers not only the achievements of other more systematic studies (those of Marcello De Cecco, Mark Flandreau, Luca Einaudi, Angela Redish, etc.) but also the results of numerous analyses dedicated to problems related to the LMU functioning5. Considerable archive materials related to the holding and organizing of monetary conferences related to the LMU have been mobilised as well as an impressive volume of monographs written in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

14The style of writing of Gillard’s book and the approach itself to monetary phenomena (the former was certainly enriched by the progress of economic theory over the past decades) in many respects reminds of the style of writing of classical authors who worked on the subject of the LMU and on the monetary issues of the past (noteworthy in this respect are Wolowski, 1870, Laveley, 1891, Willis, 1968 [1901], Helfferich, 1927). Gillard’s style is marked by exceptional technical and theoretical scope and depth, by knowledge of monetary problems and the dynamics of monetary flows which has been lost today in the depths of mathematical models and econometric studies. The theoretical level of the book mentioned above sets forth high requirements to the reader who must understand the details of monetary mechanisms of that time some of which do not exist in today’s world of credit and digital currency (bitcoin for exemple).

  • 6 For instance, see Gillard (1991, 2004), as well as Boyer-Xambeu, Deleplace, Gillard (1986, 1991, 19 (...)

15In general, the reviewed book offers a unity of monetary history, the history of monetary and economic thought. Numerous modern theoretical models have also been explored (i.e. of the Optimum Currency Areas) and numerous themes which are characteristic of the French monetary school (such as « the sovereignty of money », the relation between monetary and political sovereignty, between money and debt, etc.). Lucien Gillard’s pioneer publications in the course of many years on monetary history and monetary thought made him one of the few leading figures in the French tradition often referred to as « the French school of monetary institutionalism/Institutionalisme monétaire français » (Alary et al., 2016). In our opinion among the founders of that school Gillard is the one who has the best knowledge of the technical mechanisms of monetary dynamics in the period of metallic currency and the transition to fiat one6.

  • 7 Today it is not so any longer.

16We understand the logic and structure of the book as follows. Initially the « monetary » actors have been featured whose characteristics and strategies subsequently determined the development and evolution of the monetary rule be it outside or inside the LMU frameworks (p. 19-142). The actors have been presented at two levels. First on a global level where the LMU appears as an independent player side by side with Britain, Germany and the USA. The individual types of strategies of the five member states – France, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and Greece have been differentiated at that second level. Switzerland had the most cooperative behaviour compared to the other member states whereas the most selfish behaviour was that of Italy (« the naughty kid of the club/enfant terrible »). Italy persisted in its requests to increase its quotas and its money supply at the expense of the others and continuously issued compulsory paper currency. However, France supported Italy since the latter was in favour of bimetallism unlike Belgium and Switzerland that disliked the gold standard. Greece was the political “appendix” to the Union and though its behaviour was similar to that of Italy, it could not inflict serious damages to its functioning7. However, Gillard set to the fore individual states thereby becoming a supporter of the realist approach in the theory of international relations. He repeatedly resorted to a disaggregated sociological level to present each country’s position as the result of the configuration in the correlation of forces between the leading interested groups.

17Having featured in detail the actors and strategies Lucien Gillard analysed the development of monetary rules i.e. the LMU monetary institutions in the second part (p. 143-292). Here the study proceeds again along two directions. The rules existing within the union have been featured: (i) as regards small change/small circulation silver coins; (ii) concerning the 5 franc silver coin (the ecu); (iii) the rules for paying the debts in the event of a partial or complete liquidation of the union as well as (iv) the monetization rules i.e. about the choice of the standard (gold standard, silver standard, double/bimetallic standard).

18Then follows the presentation of the rules and monetary practices that remained outside the scope of the LMU. It covers the problems of the paper currency and bank money as well as the issuing policy of the central banks. This part also dwells on the topics of the monetary and political sovereignty and of the nature of its being shared/divided within the common monetary rules. An annex offers the detailed chronology of the basic monetary and financial events (1830-1930) and provides succinct information about the monetary conferences and congresses related to the LMU functioning (p. 298-354).

  • 8 Set forth in detail in the book.

19As we have already mentioned the book is a profound historical study of the LMU. It explores not only the history of facts but also the history of ideas and viewpoints of different economists as regards the European monetary union. Noteworthy is the theoretical typology of the various monetary regimes of that epoch set forth by the author (bimetallic, restricted bimetallic, gold, paper, etc.). The book offers allegations and generalizations which have an important bearing on the functioning of the monetary unions in principle and which make it possible for us to throw light on the Eurozone’s problems of today and on its enlargement towards the Balkans. However prior to reviewing two topics discussed by Gillard, which are of particular interest for us (the one about the compatibility of the periphery with the developed countries’ monetary regime and about harmonization, convergence, catching up, etc.) we will recall in brief the LMU principles (1865-1927)8.

  • 9 This is the difference between the LMU and the Scandinavian Monetary Union (Sweden, Norway and Denm (...)

20The LMU was initially set up (in 1865) as a reaction to the changes in the ratio between the prices of silver and gold as an adoption of the mutual circulation of small subsidiary silver coins (of a value less than 5 francs). The other coins (5-franc silver ecus, gold coins, the coins minted from other low value precious metals (decimal and non-decimal), as well as paper currency and banknotes9 were not the subject to regulation. The standardized small silver coins as well as the ecu and gold did not obtain a cours legal but only a cours fiscal. According to the fiscal cours only the public safety vaults were obliged to accept other countries’ coins (p. 82). Up to 1873/74 small subsidiary silver coins were exchangeable in ecus (5 franc silver coins). They could be minted in up to 6 francs per capita of the population. Due to the silver price drop and the excessive emission of 5 francs ecus quotas were adopted in 1873 for those coins (up to 5 francs per capita). Their minting was suspended completely in 1878.

  • 10 The Balkan countries actively used the first method of adjustment (by fiat, compulsory paper curren (...)

21In 1885 which was an important year for the LMU rules were adopted for the ways of covering debts and balances in the event of a possible liquidation of the union which was a major problem and was continuously on the agenda of discussions. The LMU functioned up to its final dissolution in 1927, but after the wars, it actually did not have the significance it had from 1865 to 1914. The less developed countries such as Italy and Greece often introduced compulsory paper currency thereby obstructing the functioning of the union (see also Heilfferich, 1927). Italy’s example is illustrative to this effect. Having emerged in 1866 the cours forcé existed for 50 years out of the total of the 70-year long LMU history. The paper currency issues along with the raising of customs tariffs were the only steps to be undertaken by the less developed countries in the conditions of an asymmetric shock10.

22Thus, in general having emerged as bimetallic the LMU was deformed as early as the first years of its existence. Silver was gradually demonetised and the LMU was defined as « restricted »/ « limping bimetallic » or « limping gold standard » (see definitions in Heilfferich, 1927, p. 363-364 and Nogaro, 1949, also in Тоshev, 1928). In the course of time silver was more and more replaced by banknotes which were convertible into silver but mostly into gold. In a definite promotion gold remained in the reserves of the central bank. Hence, it was proceeded to the activation of a « gold exchange standard » (that differed from the « pure gold standard ») whereas silver preserved its functions of a domestic means of payment within definite legal limits. For its part gold remained the main unit of account, the means of payment in international trade and an instrument of saving. Gillard noted that apart of the adjustment mechanism through the coin flows movement (with a fixed rate), an adjustment was also achieved by bill of exchange and different securities where exchange rate was free (see also Heilfferich, 1927, Toshev, 1928). That provided the grounds for the emergence of the agio between the official and market rate within the LMU frameworks.

  • 11 It is rather referred to global, universal and world currency.

23Though initially the possibilities were launched of developing further the LMU in the direction of common money and supranational monetary authorities (that was the idea of Félix de Parieu, the leading figure of the first period of the union), the European leaders did not have long-term projects and plans for implementing a common monetary policy11. The LMU remained a « cooperative solution » of the problem of small exchangeable silver coins whereby that was subsequently transferred to the 5-franc silver coins. That allegation of a lack of vision set forth by L. Gillard is important for the correct comparison between the LMU and today’s Eurozone.

24Whenever the « adoption of a common currency » contrary to the classical theory of the optimum currency areas (according to which a definite preliminary similarity is required in economies proceeding towards common currency), recently many economists referred to « the theory of endogenous currency unions ». According to the latter once adopted common currency in itself causes convergence thereby decreasing the risk and transaction costs within the zone. However, we must admit that the endogenous currency union theory has been empirically refuted by the almost twenty-year long development of the Eurozone. Following a period of a fast nominal convergence (mainly interest rates, but price too), the confluence trend sharply reverted in 2007/2008 and today we could only refer to the divergence and disintegration of European economy. Those processes notwithstanding the hopes of catching up and income convergence with those in the developed countries still predominate in the political and public discourse. Thus, for instance efforts were made during the last months (May/June 2017) for launching the procedure for joining the Eurozone (Bulgaria for instance). The aim is to avoid the dropping out from the EU core given a hypothetical adoption of the « two-speed Europe » project. Similar processes are at hand in the other Balkan countries and particularly in those of the Western Balkans of a pressure on EU institutions aimed at the countries of the region joining the EU and consequently the common currency.

  • 12 Thus, for instance the problem of the liquidation of monetary debts in the event of a possible diss (...)

25As far as Gillard’s book is concerned, we must underscore again that it refutes definite claims and often-predominant allegations about the potentialities of monetary unions. However prior to dwelling in detail on « the myth of convergence and harmonisation » we would like to draw the attention to the fact that Lucien Gillard has clearly outlined the limits of a comparison between the LMU and the Eurozone. According to the author, the LMU was an extremely limited form of monetary cooperation that did not aim at a common currency and a common shared monetary policy. To this effect, comparisons with the problems of the LMU and the Eurozone though useful in many respects, are of relatively less decisive importance12.

26Let us now dwell on some aspects of the processes of convergence with the LMU countries in the Balkans, the compatibility of the monetary regime of the centre and the structure of the Balkan economies as well as on the dynamics of an important variable namely the foreign debt interest rates. This is important because even today similarly to the LMU period the Balkans follow closely the monetary policy of the ECB fixing their currencies within the frameworks of Currency Boards (Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina), or strictly controlling them in the other countries (despite the rules of Inflation Targeting). The euro has been adopted unilaterally in some countries namely in Montenegro and Kosovo (for details see Magnin & Nenovsky, 2016). This dependence of the monetary regime of the Balkan countries on the European centre is typical of the region’s history.

3. « Incompatibility Hypothesis »: the Balkans and the Latin Monetary Union

  • 13 According to an erroneous allegation of Slăvescu that Romania became an official member of the unio (...)

27As we have already mentioned Romania in 1867, Serbia in 1873 and Bulgaria in 1880 adopted a unilateral obligation of fixing their currency rate to the gold French franc, i.e. 1 franc = 1 lev = 1 leu = 1 dinar (CMI, 1890, 454)13. This obligation was suspended at the outset of the Balkans wars, 1912/1914.

28In Nenovsky and Vaslin (2015) the authors set forth the hypothesis of the incompatibility between the then development of the Balkan countries and the LMU monetary regime. According to that hypothesis a chain of dependencies could be outlined which illustrates a self-destroying dynamics whereby the choice of a monetary regime namely the adoption of a fixed rate to the French franc coupled with the specificities of the Balkan economies could lead fast to the destabilization of the budget and the accumulation of debts. This goes hand in hand with the emergence of a high agio. The agio may be defined as a market premium on gold coins in relation to the official, nominal rate which these gold coins (later gold banknotes) have in relation to silver coins and silver banknotes or with regard to compulsory paper currency. In technical terms, the agio was the result of a deformation of the structure of the money supply and the money market in favour of silver. However, the monetary sector was closely related to the structural deformations of the balance of payment. In other words “a self-destroying” dynamics may be observed in the interaction between the monetary and the external sector of the Balkan economies.

29Despite the existence of some non-productive debts (mainly military ones), during the first years of political independence capital and loans were mainly allocated for the building of infrastructure and had a productive nature. They resulted in the imports of industrial goods, machines and technologies. At this first stage, the net gold inflow towards the Balkan region was positive thereby resulting in acceptable levels of the agio. Within that configuration the silver money supply was above all inherited (foreign and most of all Russian silver roubles which penetrated in the country after the liberation wars, etc.).

30However, the situation changed rapidly i.e. the net gold inflow became negative. Agricultural produce and raw materials generated relatively lower proceeds and their prices during that period declined faster compared to the fall of prices of industrial goods (i.e. conditions for trade deteriorated). The servicing of foreign debts also started at that stage and annuities were paid in gold. The agio grew at a threatening rate thereby causing losses for the state and the central bank (the BNB’s gold reserves decreased, e.g. Yordanov, 1910). According to the evidence about Serbia in those years:

Exports are by far the most important source bringing gold into the country. As farm produce plays a predominant role in Serbian exports, the export figures depend chiefly on the harvest. However, conversely, Serbian agriculture is still not very developed. […] Borrowing is another means for supplying the country with gold, comes due, an equal sum, plus interest, will go out of the country. Therefore, in order to act as an instrument against the agio, these borrowings must be used productively. This is notably the case for the borrowings that were used to build the railways, to create the tobacco and match monopolies. Unfortunately, the majority of Serbian borrowings were undertaken only to cover budget deficits or to purchase arms and munitions, imported from abroad in most cases. It is obvious that instead of improving the exchange, these borrowings to a large extent contributed to worsening it. (Bochkovitch, 1919, p. 145-146)

31The Balkan governments were divided as regards the need on the one hand to fight the agio thereby resorting to new, already non-productive loans abroad (in order to increase their gold reserves). On the other, they could also be tempted to increase their money income (seigniorage) by putting into circulation new quantities of silver coins and particularly banknotes (the attempts at putting into circulation gold banknotes failed both in Serbia and in Bulgaria).

32Our reflections above may be summarized in a theoretical assumption of an « incompatibility hypothesis ». It is a matter of a contradiction between the monetary regime following the monetary policy of developed countries, the tasks of development and catching up and on the other hand of the sustainability of the balance of payment and public finances. The dependences are illustrated in Chart 1, which is important for understanding the mechanism of forming imbalances.

Chart 1

Balkans Periphery and European Core: the « Bad Dynamics » Theoretical Frame

Balkans Periphery and European Core: the « Bad Dynamics » Theoretical Frame

Source: Autors

33In order to understand better this chart it must be added that there is mutual dynamics between the forming of the foreign and domestic debt as well as some cyclicity in their correlation. Though initially the foreign debt was predominating (there were no domestic savings, and monetization of the economy was poor) subsequently there followed periods during which the governments resorted to increasing the domestic debt mostly through direct loans from central banks. Whenever those direct loans threatened the functioning of the central banks and triggered inflation it was resorted again to external loans.

34In this respect, a major element of the chart above is the fundamental difference in the structure of the monetary sectors in the core and in peripheral Balkan countries. While the former were strongly monetized and gold dominated, the latter were poorly monetized and silver or paper currency were the main forms of currency. (Table 1 and Table 2). As it has already been noted the Balkan countries were mono-agricultural (growing just a few farm produce), they had no savings, did not possess a tax base and were poorly monetized. Dozens of foreign coins were in circulation above all silver and copper ones. There were practically no gold coins in the region (Cercel, 1908; Minei, 1912; Bochkovitch, 1919). The low monetization of the Balkan region is illustrated in the table below presented in a report before the Bulgarian Parliament in 1884 by the Minister of Finance Mihail Tenev.

Тable 1. The Gold and Silver Reserves of the European States in 1882

Country

Gold reserves

Silver reserves

Gold per citizen

Silver per citizen

Francs

%

Francs

%

Francs

Francs

United Kingdom

3 066 500 000

63

479 600 000

13

86

14

Germany

2 005 400 000

86

1 143 000 000

36

44

25

France

4 531 900 000

59

3 124 500 000

40

121

83

Belgium

533 500 000

63

307 300 000

36

96

55

Switzerland

103 60 000

57

76 200 000

42

36

26

Italy

749 800 000

67

362 600 000

32

26

12

Sweden and Norway

161 800 000

78

43 200 000

21

18

5

The Netherlands

151 800 000

34

292 600 000

65

37

72

Austria

169 700 000

38

274 000 000

61

4

7

Russia

617 500 000

100

0

6

0

Spain

673 400 000

65

362 600 000

35

40

21

Portugal

248 600 000

79

62 200 000

20

54

13

USA

2 919 600 000

72

1 087 600 000

27

58

21

The Balkan Peninsula

82 900 000

49

84 900 000

50

2

2

Source: Тenev, 2014 [1938], p. 366-367

  • 14 Thus for instance in Romania it rapidly changed from 4 to 3,70 francs in 1879 and then to 3.5. In S (...)

35During the first years of political independence the situation deteriorated due the fact that along with the Russian soldiers a considerable volume of Russian silver rouble coins penetrated in the country and their rate to the French franc was considerably higher than their market value (for details about this period see Kyoseva, 2000). Thus for instance the rate in Bulgaria persisted for a long time being 1 rouble = 4 francs = 4 levs (the lev was pegged to the franc), whereas it was considerably lower on the market (e.g. at the monetary exchange in the town of Rousse the rouble was exchanged for 3.10-3.15 levs and in Vienna - for 2.9 levs). Problems were also caused by the fact that the above-mentioned rate was different in the individual countries thereby resulting in a currency arbitrage. There was a silver inflow above all in Bulgaria where the rouble rate persisted the longest - being higher than the market one while gold rapidly hoarded14.

36Numerous attempts were made at demonetizing silver roubles. Bulgaria was the last one in this respect, the demonetization of the rouble was carried out as late as 1887 (demonetization in Romania was carried out in 1880, in Turkey in 1884 and in Serbia in 1886). In late 1881 Bulgaria (and before it Serbia in 1879 in a similar way), made an attempt to limit the inflow of LMU silver coins in the country by decreasing the rate of those coins in levs (i.e. instead of a rate of 5 levs for 5 francs a rate of 4.50 levs was fixed).

37Romania was the only Balkan country which succeeded in introducing the gold standard relatively early in 1890 (see for details Olanesco, 1900, Bảicoianu, 1932). During those years the conditions for adopting that standard were also suitable in Serbia and in Bulgaria (the agio was extremely low, about 0.5-1 % in Bulgaria during the 1888-1890 period whereas in 1890 it reached 0.25 %), but the Bulgarian politicians did not take advantage of it. Attempts were made at introducing the gold standard; laws were drafted (BNB, 1929, Tenev, 2014 [1938], vol. 1, p. 396-401).

38Because of the lack of gold and the limitation of the silver coins within the LMU the only possibility for monetizing the economy were banknotes. They were however very difficult to be imposed and led to the emergence of a high agio. After the failure to introduce the gold banknotes, it was resorted to silver banknotes.

39Thus, for instance the first gold banknotes were put into circulation in Serbia as late as 1886 though they rarely exceeded 1 % of the total volume of banknotes most of which were silver. It was so although as a relative share the gold reserves predominated in the assets of the Central Bank. They were actually used for external payments (Table 2).

Table 2. Fiduciary Circulation in Serbia (1886-1893)

Year

Banknotes payable in gold (%)

Banknotes payable in silver (%)

Metallic reserves in gold

(%)

Metallic reserves in silver

(%)

1886

15

85

69

31

1887

3.5

96.5

37

63

1888

1.3

98.7

39

61

1889

0.8

99.2

45

55

1890

0.4

99.6

57

43

1891

0.3

99.7

65

35

1892

0.4

99.6

66

34

1893

0.6

99.4

70

30

Source: Bochkovitch (1919, p. 109-110)

  • 15 Borchgrave (1883), 68-74, Bochkovitch (1919), 170-171, NBS (2004), Minei (1912), Slăvescu (2013) [1 (...)

40Noteworthy was an interesting institutional specificity. The three Balkan countries including Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia developed central banking similar to that of Belgium15. Back then however it was established that the transfer, copying, and transplanting of institutions without taking account of the national specificities was not always adequate. According to Bochkovitch:

But finding a model was not everything. It also had to be adapted to the country’s special conditions. Indeed, this was the main difficulty of the problem. The difference between the economic situation of Belgium and that of Serbia is, and especially was at that time, considerable. Whereas the former is a very wealthy country with an extremely developed industry and many credit institutions holding very high levels of capital; in Serbia, on the contrary, at the time the National Bank was created, the credit system was still quite rudimentary, industry did not exist, trade was also not very developed, and furthermore, constant political struggles delayed progress. Yet the legislator was unable to make the necessary modifications to the Belgian system to adapt it to the setting in which it was to be applied. (Bochkovitch 1919, p. 170)

41The gold monometallism was difficult to implement in a Balkan context. Bochkovich again, and on Serbia:

However, to be able to come out in favour of one system or the other [NN: gold monometallism or bimetallism], one must take into account the country’s economic nature. Indeed, it is quite obvious that although monometallism is excellent from a purely theoretical standpoint, it will yield very poor results if applied to a country that is poor in that metal. The legislator proposes [but] economic reality decides. At that time, there was no fiduciary currency. The only instrument for exchange were metal coins. However, the quantity of gold coins was far from enough to satisfy the needs of monetary circulation. This situation could not continue for long without causing great harm to the country. The simplest means to lighten the burden on gold was to issue a fiduciary currency. (Bochkovitch, 1919, p. 97)

42For its part Romania managed to introduce the gold standard legally by extremely restrictive and conservative measures thereby coming closer to the states with the gold standard above all Germany which was united towards Prussia’s monetary system. In 1890 the budget was balanced, half of the silver coins were withdrawn and the payments in silver were limited to small sums only (Теnev, 2014 [1938] vol. 1, p. 398, Olanesco, 1900, Baicoianu, 1932). Although the agio (on gold in relation to silver) was overcome in 1890, it would be interesting to note that later it emerged again but in a different form (that time in relation to gold banknotes). The Romanian Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance took « draconian measures » and used political violence to restrict its spreading and to keep the gold standard which was yet another fact illustrating the difficulties in maintaining a monetary regime similar to that of the developed countries. There was evidence to this effect in the speech of the BNB governor Mihail Tenev before the Bulgarian National Assembly in 1900 in which he set forth the measures for overcoming the monetary crisis in Bulgaria as follows (a quote illustrating the artificiality of the gold standard introduced in Romania:

In Romania, a country close to ours in which the gold standard has existed for years, whose national bank keeps a permanent gold stock of 60, 70 million lei in its vaults and this time last year there were 45 000 000 lei there, a country where the agio has deviated between 10 and 60 stotinki per one hundred, last year given the same circumstances which existed in Bulgaria and in the Bulgarian National Bank the agio reached about 5 to 6 % and speculators were engaged daily in withdrawing the gold stock from the Romanian National Bank by submitting for exchange banknotes against gold coins and sending them abroad. Do you know what measures were taken by the Romanian National Bank despite its obligation because of the gold standard in the country and the large gold stock in its vaults to exchange those gold banknotes! The bank made use of something which could discredit it greatly if the public opinion had not followed its actions and if it had been unaware of the objective of the measure taken. There were several gendarmes in front of the tellers in the Romanian National Bank who did not allow anyone to submit even an insignificant quantity of banknotes to be exchanged for gold. Moreover the management of the Romanian Bank declared to all its clients who dared to appear in the bank and submit banknotes to be exchanged for gold that it would close their current accounts, close its tellers for all operations; apart from that it threatened that those who did not listen to reason and continued to insist on the exchange would be promptly expelled from the country. (Тenev, 2014 [1938] vol. 1, p. 345-346)

43The leading economists of that time were aware of what we currently call a « centre-periphery » relation in the international monetary system, its instability and asymmetric nature.

  • 16 The Romanian monetary reform of 1890 when gold monometallism was formally adopted, comes to confirm (...)

The Latin Monetary Union made France the centre of a vast system of circulation, and by giving it satellites, made it a sort of monetary sun/soleil monétaire. If the other heavenly bodies that it drew into its orbit were attracted to the gravitational force of another monetary system, would there not be reason to fear that France might lose, along with its monetary influence, a portion of its economic importance (Ed. Van der Smissen, in Chausserie-Laprée, 1911, p. 218)16

By making the smaller states dependent upon France, the Latin Union hindered them, as we shall later see, from actively caring for their own interest when the fall in the value of silver began to grow more marked, and forced upon them subsequently the necessity of redeeming a mass of depreciated metal. (Willis, 1968 [1901], p. 85)

44In 1888, Emile de Laveleye wrote in his book on the Balkans about the non-equivalent exchange they experienced in accepting the money of the developed countries through the deviation of the purchasing power parity.

All nations of Western Europe are wealthy countries with abundant circulation, therefore prices are high. The nations of Eastern Europe are, conversely, countries with low circulation, hence prices are low. This difference matters little to the inhabitants of one or the other of these groups in their relations amongst one another, but it is felt as soon as there are relations between citizens of the high-price group and those of the lower-price group. The former can easily buy from the latter; but reciprocally, the latter cannot buy from the former. If I sell a chicken in London for three shillings, I can use this money to buy three chickens in Bucharest. A thousand francs in Paris will give me three times as much purchasing power in Romania or Bulgaria. The Englishman or the Frenchman can thus take from the poor countries everything of their liking, because they will pay prices that nobody could pay locally. […] Their incomes give them a much greater purchasing and consuming power [abroad] than at home. Conversely, the inhabitant of Kyiv or Sofia who would like to come to London or Paris, to consume the equivalent of a hectolitre of wheat, must, in order to do so, sell at least two hectolitres of wheat at home. (Laveleye, 1888, p. 62)

  • 17 Paraphrasing Chancellor Bismarck we can say « gold is a narrow cover for many people and everyone s (...)

45In a political and economic aspect, the Central European countries and above all the LMU members regularly attracted the gold of the Balkan periphery and drove out silver there17.

46« Poor dynamics » requires a radical change of the regime, resolute measures in the sphere of public finance, restrictive fiscal and monetary policy (credit restriction) as well as labour market flexibility. This type of economic policy can break the « vicious » relation between the balance of payment and the monetary sector. The type of radical deflation certainly has its long term negative consequences if it is not accompanied by higher economic efficiency. In the short term it managed to restore the monetary relations of the Balkan countries with the LMU.

47Such a type of radical change was evidenced in the 1903/1905 period when the three countries namely Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania entered a new macroeconomic regime. An explicit evidence to this effect are statistical data of that period (SEEMHN, 2014). It must be added that 1904 may be regarded as the outset of a general stabilization of the European economy due to the final adoption of the rules of the gold and gold-exchange standard within the frameworks of the leading economies (Nogaro, 1949, p. 99; Helfferich, 1927). After 1904 the Balkan countries’ statistics featured conservative public finances, balance of payment and budget surpluses, net gold inflow, restriction of the money supply and credit, etc. During that period (up to the Balkan wars of 1912/1913) the three Balkan countries under review managed successfully to follow the rules of the gold standard.

4. Empirical Illustrations

48In Nenovsky and Vaslin (2015) the dynamics of the market sovereign interest rates for the 1875-1912 period was reconstructed. The aim was to measure statistically the interest rates convergence. It must be recalled that the main motive of the choice to follow the LMU rules was the decrease of the risk premium and the decline of the costs of attracting foreign capital. A successful integration means Balkans interest rates convergence towards those of the zone of pegging, i.e. the decrease of interest spreads. After the historical and theoretical reconstruction, we obtained the following debt interest rate dynamics of Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Hungary.

Chart 2. Monthly Dynamics of Interest Rates on the Foreign Debt of Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Hungary and France (1875-1912)

Chart 2. Monthly Dynamics of Interest Rates on the Foreign Debt of Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Hungary and France (1875-1912)

Source: Nenovsky & Vaslin (2015)

49Chart 1 clearly illustrates the regime shift in 1903-1904 that was common for all countries. Actually, Hungary’s cost of the debt was the lowest during the whole period and at some stages it was closely followed by Romania. The debt of Serbia and Bulgaria was much more costly whereas conditions for financing in Bulgaria had always been the most disadvantageous ones.

50After Turkey lost the Russo-Turkish war there was a decline of interest rates in Romania and Hungary and also a reduction of the debt conversion of Hungary in 1884 (from 6 % to 4 %), and that of Romania in 1894 (from 5 % to 4 %). Apart from Hungary, the economists of that time considered that the difference between Romania and the other Balkan countries was the result of the drilled oil reserves (Minei, 1912). Romania became an important destination for capital, and was continuously courted by the developed European countries, which prompted the then Bulgarian Minister of Finance Mihail Tenev to refer to it as « the pet of the European capitalists/galenoto dete » (Tenev, 2014 [1938] v.1, 340). A declining trend of the debt cost in Romania occurred after the reform in 1890 i.e. after the gold standard adoption. One of the explanations of the choice of gold as a standard were Romania’s stronger ties with Germany (and even with Britain), at the expense of declining trade and political relations with France (Stoenescu et al., 2011, p. 184-185). As early as in 1902 there were surpluses of the Romanian budget which persisted in the following years (Minei, 1912, p. 59).

51As regards Serbia and Bulgaria, statistical reconstruction clearly show the existence of two sharply contrasting regimes – up to 1903/1905 and thereafter. In Serbia’s case the reconstructed cost of the debt attested to the rising of the cost after 1890 (at that time the debt payments accounted for most of the budget expenditure), as well as the conversion after the default and the agreement with creditors in 1896 (coupon reduction from 5 % to 4 %). The slight rise of the cost during the dynastic coup in 1903 was evident as was the subsequent fast drop of interest rates because of the conservative policy of the new government. Generally, the cost of financing decreased during the second period. Dragana Gnjatovic summed it up emphasizing that while the nominal interest rate was 5 % in 1881-1903 and the effective one was 6.47 %, during the 1904-1912 period the nominal interest rate was 4.5 %, and the effective one was 5.7 % (Gnjatović, 1991, 2009).

52The dynamics of the cost of the Bulgarian debt in the years before 1900 was similar for there were numerous difficulties related to its servicing. Large volumes of silver coins were issued and in 1899 the exchange of gold banknotes for gold was suspended (instead gold banknotes began to be exchanged for silver). The trade balance was negative and there was no capital inflow. That was the time when the agio was at its peak and reached 12-14 %. The losses caused by the agio during the 1900-1905 period were enormous and totalled 1 million and a half gold levs (Yordanov, 1910, Table on page 84). The graphics also illustrates the subsequent stabilization in the wake of 1904 and particularly after 1905 (the BNB law of 1906 allowed the issue of banknotes both in gold and in silver). State loans were contracted in 1902, 1904, 1907 and 1909 thereby increasing the country’s gold stocks (BNB, 1929, p. 27). The banknote circulation and above all gold banknotes circulation increased in Bulgaria at that time (the former rose three times during the 1903-1911 period) unlike Serbia where there was no gold banknotes circulation even during the stabilization period.

53With a view to making a more precise analysis of the behaviour and integration of interest rates and interest spreads of the Balkan countries, in Nenovsky and Vaslin (2015) the authors proposed econometric analyses of long-term relations. The logic of the econometric studies is as follows: the authors offered tests for cointegration of interest rates at the first stage. As a second step, they measured the β-convergence of interest spreads. The results showed that cointegration was evidenced only between the French and Hungarian interest rates for the whole period under review whereas during the stable stage from 1904 until the outbreak of the Balkan wars (1912) two clubs of countries were established. The first one included France, Hungary and Romania and the second – Bulgaria and Serbia. Given a greater « statistical tolerance » (confidence coefficient of 0.10), there was a long-term relation between the interest rates of Romania and those of Serbia and Bulgaria (an original Balkan club). β-convergence was observed only in the case of Hungary during the two periods and of Romania during the second « financially conservative » period. It should be noted that the convergence was slow and weak (β coefficients were of low value). As regards Bulgaria and Serbia statistically significant convergence was not established (β coefficients though with a negative sign were not of any statistical significance).

54It is noteworthy that even the publications of that time differentiated between securities in a similar way whereby Hungary and Romania enjoyed greater confidence as debtors while the securities of Bulgaria and Serbia were speculative ones (Credit Lyonnais, in Flandreau, 2004). The French economist Paul Leroy-Beaulieu who was popular in the Balkans at that time wrote: « Some of the state bonds as a whole could be considered today speculative securities like the Serbian and Bulgarian ones » (Leroy-Beaulieu, 1906, p. 84).

55In the mechanism illustrated in Chart 1 the role of the agio is of prime importance for comprehending the mechanism of incompatibility between the Balkan countries and the LMU (a detailed analysis is offered in Nenovsky and Vaslin, 2015a). Based on data about Serbia the three graphics below illustrate the agio’s relation with the interest rates, the public finances as well as with the gold banknotes volume.

56Chart 3 illustrates the close joint movement of interest rates (interest spreads) and the agio that were high initially and subsequently after the gold standard adoption declined considerably and then the agio was overcome. Chart 4 shows the high levels of the agio in the conditions of a budget deficit and its actual elimination in the conditions of a budget surplus (after 1903). The last Chart 5 features the increased penetration of gold banknotes in the conditions of agio reduction. This is an indirect evidence of restrictions set by the agio to the introduction of the gold standard and of gold banknotes as a major income source. The issue certainly remains open of the direction of causality between these variables, which will be difficult to determine adequately graphically (and even by statistical tests).

Chart 3 Interest Rate, Interest Rate Spread and agio in Serbia 1882-1912

Chart 3 Interest Rate, Interest Rate Spread and agio in Serbia 1882-1912

Source: Nenovsky & Vaslin (2015a)

Chart 4. Agio and Public Finances in Serbia, 1882-1912

Chart 4. Agio and Public Finances in Serbia, 1882-1912

Source: Nenovsky & Vaslin (2015a)

Chart 5. Agio and Gold Banknotes in Serbia, 1882-1912

Chart 5. Agio and Gold Banknotes in Serbia, 1882-1912

Source: Nenovsky & Vaslin (2015a)

Concluding Remarks

57First, the adoption of the LMU monetary rules on the part of the Balkan countries in the last decades of the 19th century inevitably ran counter to the structural backwardness and underdevelopment of the monetary sector in the region from the viewpoint of attracting capital for the needs of modernization. It rapidly brought the emergence of the agio (between gold and silver) supported by the frequent putting into circulation of compulsory paper currency. The latter allowed for a certain flexibility of money supply and became an integral accompanying fact of the peripheral Balkan economies (in many respects they were similar to processes in Italy). However, paper currency was frequently the cause of a low financial discipline.

58It is difficult to assess whether a monetary regime different from that of the LMU limited bimetallism was at all possible (e.g. a strict abiding by the gold standard of the type adopted in Britain or later in Germany). We would rather say that there were no alternatives because of the economic and political weakness and dependence of small and young Balkan states. It can be claimed that there was a need of a local currency buffer (in that case paper fiat currency) linked with the economic cycle that should certainly not be abused. In the same vein similarly to the then coexistence and complementarity of two types of currency (i) metallic currency (or backed banknotes), and (ii) enforced paper currency/fiat currency, today it is possible to think in the direction of currency complementarity. A possible solution today would be national fiscal currencies of the Balkan countries to circulate along with the common currency – the euro (Théret & Kalinowski, 2012).

59Second, the LMU period did not result in a convergence in the cost of foreign financing between the periphery and the centre of the LMU (France). There was convergence of Romanian interest rates during definite periods though all specificities of Romania should be taken into account (the country was the first one to adopt officially the gold standard in 1890 and the first one to start exploiting its oil reserves). As far as the convergence of incomes is concerned facts prove that there was not such a convergence and that it was impossible for it to occur. It is noteworthy that while the incomes of the Balkan countries on the eve of World War I accounted for about 20-25 % of those of the LMU that ratio is almost the same today (2017). Comparing Romania and the other Balkan countries, the Romanian economist Basile Minei noted the following in 1912:

If we compare Romania with the great Western countries: it is, for example, 4 or 5 times less rich than France, even if we take into account the difference in population. However, these figures become important if a comparison is made between the present and the past, or between the present state of Romania and that of the other Balkan countries: all proposals kept, Romania is three times richer than Bulgaria or Serbia, and 5 or 6 times richer than Turkey or Greece, (Minei 1912, p. 64)

60Finally, we will note that Lucien Gillard’s new book which made it possible for us to set forth here our reflections on the Balkans offers numerous topics for comparison with the current problems of the Eurozone (within the limits set by the author himself).

61An interesting line of analysis for example, could be the principles and mechanisms of covering the final balances in the case of complete or partial monetary union dissolution. This was a major problem throughout the LMU history and the difficulties encountered in solving it artificially extended the LMU existence. The subject of the costs entailed by the dissolution was elucidated in detail in Gillard’s book. Though in a different context it provided an occasion for reflections, for the development of the Eurozone today.

62For instance, within the LMU various economic and political configurations between debtors (above all Italy and Belgium as well) and creditors (above all France and Switzerland as well), held bitter disputes: (i) on the assets to pay the final debts (gold, securities generating interest, etc.), (ii) on the rate under which that will be effected (nominal or market one), (iii) on the repayment deadlines, etc. There are parallels with today’s problems of the TARGET 2 balances and the proposals for the compensations between the ECB individual central banks to be in gold (as was the practice in the USA utill the 1970s (some German economists, see Sinn, 2015), which paradoxically takes us back to the LMU years.

63Another important topic reminiscent of the LMU years is the one about deflation, its causes and consequences (deflation in the LMU years is understood as money circulation shrinking, i.e. silver demonetization, or withdrawing paper currency from circulation the way it happened in Italy). Outstanding economists of the LMU period (such as Emile de Laveleye) referred deflation to the restriction and demonetization of silver that considerably reduced the money supply. Today these topics are also up-to-date.

Haut de page

Bibliographie

Alary P., Blanc J., Desmedt L. & B. Théret (2016), Théories Françaises de la Monnaie, Paris, Puf.

Băicoianu C. (1932), Istoria politicii noastre monetare şi a Băncii Naţionale 1880-1914, Monitorul oficial si Impremeriile Statului, Bucureşti, Impremeria Nationala.

Bae K-H. & W. Bailey (2011), « The Latin Monetary Union: Some evidence on Europe’s failed common currency », Review of Development Finance, vol. 1, n° 2, p. 131-149.

Bergman M. (1999), « Do Monetary Unions Make Economic Sense? Evidence from the Scandinavians Currency Union, 1873-1913 », Scandinavian Journal of Economics, vol. 101, n° 3, p. 363-377.

Bochkovitch M. (1919), La Banque Nationale de Serbie, Thèse de doctorat, Paris, Jouve & Cie.

Borchgrave Е. de (1883), La Serbie administrative, économique et commerciale, Bruxelles and Belgrade, Weissenbruch and Tchourtchitch.

Boyer-Xambeu MT., Deleplace C. & L. Gillard (1990), Vers une typologie des régimes monétaires, Cahiers d’Économie Politique, vol. 18, n° 1, p. 31-60.

Boyer-Xambeu MT., C. Deleplace & L. Gillard (1986), Monnaie privée et pouvoir des Princes. L’économie des relations monétaires à la Renaissance, Paris, CNRS Éditions.

Boyer-Xambeu MT., C. Deleplace & L. Gillard (1994), « Régimes monétaires, points d'or et “serpent bimétallique” de 1770 à 1870 », Revue Économique, vol. 5, n° 45, p. 1139-1174.

Boyer-Xambeu MT., C. Deleplace & L. Gillard (2001), « L’intégration des marchés monétaires au xixe siècle. Les places financières de Paris et de Londres (1833-1873) », Histoire et Mesure, vol. 16, n° 1-2, p. 113-155.

BNB (1929), Bulgarian National Bank (1879-1929), State-Printing House, Sofia (in Bulgarian).

Bratkowski A. & J. Rostowski (2000), « The EU attitude to Unilateral Euroization: misunderstanding, real concerns and ill-designed admission criteria », in Post-communist Transition, Essays in Honour of Ljubo Sirc, A. Brzeski & J. Winiecki (eds), London, CRCE, 2001.

Cercel A. (1908), Die Nationalbank von Rumänien, ErlangenDruck der Universitäts-Buchdruckerei von E. Th. Jacob.

Chausserie-Laprée P. (1911), L’Union Monétaire Latine. Son passé, sa situation actuelle, ses chances d’avenir et sa liquidation éventuelle, Thèse, Université de Paris, Arthur Rousseau.

CMI (Congrès Monétaire International) (1881), Congrès Monétaire International, avril-mai 1881. Procès-Verbaux, Paris, Imprimerie Nationale.

CMI (Congrès Monétaire International) (1890), Congrès Monétaire International, 1889. Compte rendu « in extenso » et documents, Paris, Bibliothèque des annales économiques.

De Cecco M. (1974), Money and Empire. The International Gold Standard, 1890 – 1914, Oxford, Basil Blackwell.

Delaisi F. (1929), Le Deux Europes, Payot, Paris.

Einaudi L. (2008), « Monetary Separation and the European Convergence in the Balkans in the 19th Century », in The Experience of Exchange Rate Regimes in South-Eastern Europe in a historical and comparative perspective, Oesterreichische Nationalbank, p. 30-49.

Einaudi L. (2001), Money and Politics. European Monetary Unification and the Gold Standard (1865-1873), Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Flandreau M. (1995), L’or du monde. La France et la stabilité du système monétaire international, 1848-1873, Paris, L’Harmattan.

Flandreau M. & F. Zumer (2004), The Making of Global Finance, 1880-1913, Development Studies Centre, Paris, OECD.

García-Iglesias C. (2002), « Interest Rate Risk Premium and Monetary Union in the European Periphery: New Lessons from the Gold Standard », Scandinavian Economic History Review, vol. 50, n° 2, p. 31-54.

Gillard L. (1991), La bataille des régimes monétaires, Economies et Sociétés, n° 6, p. 39-90.

Gillard L. (2004), La Banque d'Amsterdam et le florin européen : au temps de la République néerlandaise (1610-1820), Paris, Éditions de l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales.

Gnjatović D. (2009), Foreign Long Term Government Loans of Serbia, 1862-1914, in Economic and Financial Stability on SE Europe in a Historical and Comparative Perspective, Belgrade, National Bank of Serbia, p. 33-53.

Gnjatović D. (1991), Stari državni dugovi. Prilog ekonomskoj i političkoj istoriji Srbije i Jugoslavije 1862-1941, Boegrad, Ekonomski institut – Jugoslovenski pregled.

Haupt O. (1886), L’Histoire monétaire de notre temps, Paris, Ed. J.H. Truchy.

Helfferich K. (1927), Money (in Two Volumes), London, Ernest Benn Limited.

Hinić B., M. Šojić & L. Ɖurđević (2009), Monetary Conditions in the Kingdom of Serbia (1884-1914), in Economic and Financial Stability on SE Europe in a Historical and Comparative Perspective, Belgrade, National Bank of Serbia, p. 9-31.

Hristoforov A. (1946), A Course in Bulgarian Banking. Historical Development, Sofia, St. Kliment Ohridski University Press (in Bulgarian).

Iaranoff A. (1919), La Bulgarie économique, Lausanne, Petter, Giesser & Held.

Iaranov A. (1934), Economic Policy in Bulgaria (de 1878 à 1928), Sofia, Edition Hudojnik (in Bulgarian).

Iskritsch G. (1904), Das Serbishe Geldwesen, Druck von E. Glausch, Leiptzig.

Ivanov, М., T. Todorova & D. Vachkov (2009), History of Bulgaria’s Foreign State Debt 1878-1990, Sofia, BNB, (in Bulgarian).

Jovanovic A. (1910), Die Währungsverhältnisse in Serbien, Buchdruckerei Gebr, Zürich-Selnau, Leemann & Cie.

Kršev B. (2014), Javni dugovi i finansijske prilike Srbiji do kraja prvog svetskog rata (1878-1918), Civitas, Fakultet za pravne i poslovne studije, Novi Sad, n° 7, p. 125-151.

Kyoseva N. (2000), History of the Currency Crises in Bulgaria 1879-1912, Sofia, Publishing House Stopanstvo (In Bulgarian).

Lazaretou S. (1993), « Monetary and Fiscal Policies in Greece: 1833-1914 », The Journal of European Economic History, vol. 22, n° 2 ? P. 285-311.

Laveleye E. de (1888), La péninsule des Balkans : Vienne, Croatie, Bosnie, Serbie, Bulgarie, Roumélie, Turquie, Roumanie, Paris, Felix Alcan.

Laveleye E. de (1891), Le bimétallisme international, Paris, Felix Alcan.

Leroy-Beaulieu P. (1906), L'Art de placer et gérer sa fortune, Paris, Librarie Ch. Delagrave.

Magnin E. & N. Nenovsky (2016), « Dependent Capitalism and Monetary Regimes in the Balkans (with E. Magnin) », in Trajectoires de transformation et d'intégration dans l'Europe du Sud-Est. Défis pour les élargissements futurs, V. Delteil & R. Ivan (eds), Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti, p. 173-196.

Minei B. (1912), La Banque Nationale de Romanie, Paris, Libraire Arthur Rousseau.

Morys M. (2014), « World War I and the Emergence of Central Banks in South-East Europe », White Rose research papers, University of York.

Nenovsky N., JM. Vaslin (2015), « Shadowing the Latin Monetary Union: Monetary Regimes and Interest Rates at the Balkans Periphery (1867-1912) », paper presented at the SEEMHN conference, Vienna.

Nenovsky N. & JM. Vaslin (2015a), « Monetary Regime at the Balkan Periphery. Serbian Monetary System at the Age of the Latin Monetary Union (1865-1912) », paper presented at the SEEMHN conference, Vienna.

NBS (1934), National Bank (of Serbia and Yugoslavia), 1884-1934, Jubilee book, Beograd, Topchider Ed.

NBS (2004), National Bank (1880-2004), Balgrad, Sanimex.

Nedeljković M. (1909), Istorija srpskih državnih dugova, Štamparija Steve M. Ivkovića, Beograd.

Nenovsky N., K. Hristov & B. Petrov (2001), From the Lev to the Euro. Which Is the Best Way?, Sofia, Siela Publishers, (In Bulgarian).

Neymark A. (1887), Les Dettes publiques européennes, Paris, Guillaumin et Cie.

Nogaro B. (1949), A Short Treatise on Money and Monetary Systems, London, Staples Press.

Olanesco P. (1900), Apparition et disparition de l'agio en Roumanie, Bucarest, Impremerie Gitenberg.

Palairet M. (1997), The Balkans economies, c. 1800-1914: evolution without development, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Popoff K. (1920), La Bulgarie économique, 1879-1911, Études statistiques, Sofia, Imprimerie de la Cour.

Rosenstein-Rodan P.N. (1943), « Problems of Industrialisation of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe », The Economic Journal, vol. 53, n° 210/211, p. 202-211.

SEEMHN (2014), South-Eastern European Monetary and Economic Statistics form the Nineteenth Century to World War II, Bank of Greece, and Athens.

Sinn H. W. (2015), The Euro Trap, On Bursting Bubbles, Budgets, and Beliefs, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Slăvescu V. (2013) [1925], Istoricil Băncii Naţionale a Romȃniei (1880-1924), București, Humanitas.

Stoenescu V., A. Aloman E. Blejan & B. Costache (2011), Modern Romania’s monetary system: from bimetallism of the Latin Monetary Union to gold monometallism, in Monetary Policies and Banking Institutions in South-Eastern Europe between National Objectives and European Patterns – a Historical and Comparative Perspectives, Oscar Print, Bucharest, National Bank of Romania, p. 170-194.

Théret B. & W. Kalinowski (2012), « De la monnaie unique à la monnaie commune. Pour un fédéralisme monétaire européen », Notes de l’Institut Veblen pour les réformes économiques, septembre, p. 1-12.

Tochev A. (1910), Economic situation in Serbia, Sofia, Ed. P. Gloushkov.

Willis, H. P. (1901), A History of Latin Monetary Union. A Study of International Monetary Action, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Wolowski L. (1870), L'or et l'argent, Paris, Librarie de Guillaumin et C°.

Yordanov D. (1910), Bulgarian National Bank, 1879-1908, Sofia, Liberal Club Publishers, (In Bulgarian).

Haut de page

Notes

1 Among the first to launch the idea of the unilateral Euroization were A. Bratkovski and the future Polish Finance Minister and British economist Jacek Rostovski (Bratkovski and Rostowski, 2000).

2 At the initiative of one of us (Nikolay Nenovsky) jointly with Sophia Lazaretou, a monetary history researcher, from the Central Bank of Greece, the South European network of monetary and financial history (SEEMHN) was set up in 2005. That network has been holding its annual conferences to date in different countries in the Balkans and overseas.

3 The membership chronology followed the chronology of gaining political independence from the Ottoman Empire (Greece, Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria).

4 The archival documents of that time do not clarify explicitly the motives for the denial of official LMU membership but it may be guessed that they were rather political ones (Haupt, 1886; Willis, 1968 [1901], p. 83-84; Einaudi, 1908, especially as regards Romania’s denial of membership), as well as a reaction to the violations of the Union’s rules on the part of Greece and Italy. Not only legal restrictions but also the denial to accept the coins minted in the Balkans (both silver and gold ones) for domestic circulation in the member countries (the list of coins accepted in France did not include any coins minted in the Balkan countries, Chausserie-Laprée, 1911, p. 250-252) attested to the unilateral and asymmetric act of tying up the Balkan countries’ monetary system with the LMU countries. Actually Greece was admitted as a result of purely political and geostrategical motives (aimed at distancing the country from Russia).

5 There have been extensive analyses lately, see Gillard’s bibliography.

6 For instance, see Gillard (1991, 2004), as well as Boyer-Xambeu, Deleplace, Gillard (1986, 1991, 1994, 2001). Among the other outstanding figures of the French institutionalism in the sphere of money all of whom gathered in the summer of 2016 in Lyon at the jubilee conference noteworthy are Michel Aglietta, André Orléan, Jean Cartelier, Carlo Benetti, Jean-Michel Servet and Bruno Théret.

7 Today it is not so any longer.

8 Set forth in detail in the book.

9 This is the difference between the LMU and the Scandinavian Monetary Union (Sweden, Norway and Denmark) which emerged later (1873) and was based on a gold standard where the bank money was the leading coordination instrument (Bergman, 1999).

10 The Balkan countries actively used the first method of adjustment (by fiat, compulsory paper currency) though they encountered restrictions as regards the low customs tariff agreements (dating back to the period of the Ottoman Empire).

11 It is rather referred to global, universal and world currency.

12 Thus, for instance the problem of the liquidation of monetary debts in the event of a possible dissolution of the LMU compared to today’s discussion about debts in the ТARGET2 payment system (Sinn, 2015).

13 According to an erroneous allegation of Slăvescu that Romania became an official member of the union as late as 1889 (Slăvescu, 2013 [1925], p. 48). See Gernuschi’s proposal about silver minting in the Balkan countries, CMI (1881, p. 75). In general the archive documents and data of that time do not provide a clear evidence of the motives of the denial of an official LMU membership though it could be supposed that they were political ones (Willis, 1968 [1901], p. 83-84 ; Einaudi, 1908, on the denial of Romania’s membership). Not only the legal restrictions but also the non-acceptance in practice of the coins minted in the Balkans (both silver and gold ones) in the domestic circulation of the member countries (the list of coins allowed in France did not include any coins minted in the Balkan countries, Chausserie-Laprée, 1911, p. 250-252) attested to the unilateral and asymmetric act of tying up the monetary system of the Balkan countries to the countries of the LMU. We leave aside the case of Greece which was a formal member). Greece was actually admitted because of purely political and geostrategic motives (with the aim of distancing it from Orthodox Russia).

14 Thus for instance in Romania it rapidly changed from 4 to 3,70 francs in 1879 and then to 3.5. In Serbia, it became 3.5 and then 3.3.francs (Tenev, 2014 [1938], vol. 1, p. 359-367, vol. 2, p. 253).

15 Borchgrave (1883), 68-74, Bochkovitch (1919), 170-171, NBS (2004), Minei (1912), Slăvescu (2013) [1925].

16 The Romanian monetary reform of 1890 when gold monometallism was formally adopted, comes to confirm the quote above. Because it was then that relations with Germany and even with Britain strengthened (both countries were gold monometallists) at the expense of its weakening relations with bimetallic France (Stoenescu et al., 2011, p. 184-185). The real injury sustained by France from the war was that Germany was enabled partially to usurp the place of France as a leader in the monetary affairs. (Willis, 1968 [1901], p. 111)

17 Paraphrasing Chancellor Bismarck we can say « gold is a narrow cover for many people and everyone strives to pull it towards oneself ». A similar mechanism of relations was described by Marcello de Cecco as regards the colonial monetary system between Britain and India (De Cecco, 1974). Hence, the central countries alleviated their problems with the agio by exporting them. It is known for instance that Britain, France and Belgium had a relatively weak agio whereas almost all peripheral countries, not only the Balkan ones had high agio (It was permanently above 20 % in Greece and Portugal and was even higher than 30 %).

Haut de page

Table des illustrations

Titre Balkans Periphery and European Core: the « Bad Dynamics » Theoretical Frame
Crédits Source: Autors
URL http://journals.openedition.org/regulation/docannexe/image/12503/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 34k
Titre Chart 2. Monthly Dynamics of Interest Rates on the Foreign Debt of Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Hungary and France (1875-1912)
Crédits Source: Nenovsky & Vaslin (2015)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/regulation/docannexe/image/12503/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 150k
Titre Chart 3 Interest Rate, Interest Rate Spread and agio in Serbia 1882-1912
Crédits Source: Nenovsky & Vaslin (2015a)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/regulation/docannexe/image/12503/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 13k
Titre Chart 4. Agio and Public Finances in Serbia, 1882-1912
Crédits Source: Nenovsky & Vaslin (2015a)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/regulation/docannexe/image/12503/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 17k
Titre Chart 5. Agio and Gold Banknotes in Serbia, 1882-1912
Crédits Source: Nenovsky & Vaslin (2015a)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/regulation/docannexe/image/12503/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 14k
Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Nikolay Nenovsky, Souleymane Ndao et Jacques Marie Vaslin, « The Latin Monetary Union and the Balkans », Revue de la régulation [En ligne], 22 | 2nd semestre / Automn 2017, mis en ligne le 01 février 2018, consulté le 19 février 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/regulation/12503

Haut de page

Auteurs

Nikolay Nenovsky

CRIISEA, University of Picardie, France; nenovsky@gmail.com

Souleymane Ndao

CRIISEA, University of Picardie, France; ndaosouleymane@hotmail.fr

Jacques Marie Vaslin

CRIISEA, University of Picardie, France; jacques-marie.vaslin@u-picardie.fr

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

© Tous droits réservés

Haut de page