France played a major role in promoting and advancing the project to create the euro. But by the time the euro was launched on January 1, 1999, the new currency was largely ignored. In the meantime, Europe had become a politically divisive factor for both left and right, with cracks appearing as soon as 1992, when French President François Mitterand put the Maastricht Treaty up for referendum. France’s implicit pact became that European integration would remain on the external agenda, on the condition that domestic consequences remained minimal. As a result, it ended up lacking the policy consistency it needed to thrive under the new circumstances and regime. The same was true in Italy, where little was done to foster productivity and growth despite how hard Italy had fought for its qualification. Both missed the opportunity to profit from a change they had ardently called for.
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