Currency union

A currency union (also known as monetary union) is an intergovernmental agreement that involves two or more states sharing the same currency. These states may not necessarily have any further integration (such as an economic and monetary union, which would have, in addition, a customs union and a single market).

World map of current international currency unions

There are three types of currency unions:

The theory of the optimal currency area addresses the question of how to determine what geographical regions should share a currency in order to maximize economic efficiency.[2]

Advantages and disadvantages

Implementing a new currency in a country is always a controversial topic because it has both many advantages and disadvantages. New currency has different impacts on businesses and individuals, which creates more points of view on the usefulness of currency unions. As a consequence, governmental institutions often struggle when they try to implement a new currency, for example by entering a currency union.


  • A currency union helps its members strengthen their competitiveness on a global scale and eliminate the exchange rate risk.
  • Transactions among member states can be processed faster and their costs decrease since fees to banks are lower.[3]
  • Prices are more transparent and so are easier to compare, which enables fair competition.
  • The probability of a monetary crisis is lower. The more countries there are in the currency union, the more they are resistant to crisis.


  • The member states lose their sovereignty in monetary policy decisions. There is usually an institution (such as a central bank) that takes care of the monetary policymaking in the whole currency union.
  • The risk of asymmetric "shocks" may occur. The criteria set by the currency union are never perfect, so a group of countries might be substantially worse off while the others are booming.
  • Implementing a new currency causes high financial costs. Businesses and also single persons have to adapt to the new currency in their country, which includes costs for the businesses to prepare their management, employees, and they also need to inform their clients and process plenty of new data.
  • Unlimited capital movement may cause moving most resources to the more productive regions at the expense of the less productive regions. The more productive regions tend to attract more capital in goods and services, which might avoid the less productive regions.[4][5]

Convergence and divergence

Convergence in terms of macroeconomics means that countries have a similar economic behaviour (similar inflation rates and economic growth). It is easier to form a currency union for countries with more convergence as these countries have the same or at least very similar goals. The European Monetary Union (EMU) is a contemporary model for forming currency unions. Membership in the EMU requires that countries follow a strictly defined set of criteria (the member states are required to have a specific rate of inflation, government deficit, government debt, long-term interest rates and exchange rate). Many other unions have adopted the view that convergence is necessary, so they now follow similar rules to aim the same direction.

Divergence is the exact opposite of convergence. Countries with different goals are very difficult to integrate in a single currency union. Their economic behaviour is completely different, which may lead to disagreements. Divergence is therefore not optimal for forming a currency union.[6]


The first currency unions were established in the 19th century. The German Zollverein came into existence in 1834, and by 1866, it included most of the German states. The fragmented states of the German Confederation agreed on common policies to increase trade and political unity.

The Latin Monetary Union, comprising France, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, and Greece, existed between 1865 and 1927, with coinage made of gold and silver. Coins of each country were legal tender and freely interchangeable across the area. The union's success made other states join informally.

The Scandinavian Monetary Union, comprising Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, existed between 1873 and 1905 and used a currency based on gold. The system was dissolved by Sweden in 1924.[7]

A currency union among the British colonies and protectorates in Southeast Asia, namely the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak, Singapore and Brunei was established in 1952. The Malaya and British Borneo dollar, the common currency for circulation was issued by the Board of Commissioners of Currency, Malaya and British Borneo from 1953 until 1967. Following the cessation of the common currency arrangement, Malaysia (the combination of Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak), Singapore and Brunei began issuing their own currencies. Contemporarily, a currency reunion of these countries might still be feasible based on the findings of economic convergence.[8][9]

List of currency unions


Currency Union Users Est. Status Population
CFA franc Issued by the (French) Overseas Issuing Institute between 1945 and 1962 then by the Central Bank of West African States and the Bank of Central African States West African CFA franc users:

 Burkina Faso
 Côte d'Ivoire

Central African CFA franc users:
 Central African Republic
 Equatorial Guinea
 Republic of the Congo

1945 Formal, common policy 151,978,440
CFP franc Issued by the (French) Overseas Issuing Institute  French Polynesia

 New Caledonia
 Wallis and Futuna

1945 Formal, common policy 552,537
Eastern Caribbean dollar Eastern Caribbean Currency Union of the OECS  Anguilla

 Antigua and Barbuda
 Saint Kitts and Nevis
 Saint Lucia
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

1965 Formal, common policy
de facto EMU for CSME members[10]
Euro International status and usage of the euro Eurozone:


and EU special territories:
 French Southern and Antarctic Lands
 Saint Barthélemy
 Saint Pierre and Miquelon

 Akrotiri and Dhekelia
 San Marino
  Vatican City

1999/2002 Formal, common policy and EMU for EU members
Formal for Monaco and Akrotiri and Dhekelia (which form part of the EU's customs territory)
Informal for Kosovo, Montenegro
Formal for Andorra and San Marino (which are in customs union with the EU's customs territory)
Singapore dollar

Brunei dollar

Managed together by the Monetary Authority of Singapore  Brunei


1967 Formal; currencies mutually exchangeable[11] 5,137,000
Australian dollar  Australia

and external territories:
 Ashmore and Cartier Islands
 Australian Antarctic Territory
 Christmas Island
 Cocos (Keeling) Islands
 Coral Sea Islands Territory
 Heard Island and McDonald Islands
 Norfolk Island


1966 Informal 24,557,000
Pound sterling Sterling area (former)  United Kingdom

and Overseas Territories:
 British Antarctic Territory
 British Indian Ocean Territory
 Falkland Islands
 Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
 South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

and Crown Dependencies:
 Bailiwick of Guernsey
 Bailiwick of Jersey
 Isle of Man

1939 Semi-formal. UK banknotes are legal tender in locations outside the UK. Local currencies are pegged to the GBP but not necessarily accepted in the UK: Guernsey pound, Manx pound, Jersey pound and Alderney pound, Falkland Islands pound, Gibraltar pound, Saint Helena pound 62,321,000
Indian rupee  India


1974 Informal

Nepal minor usage

New Zealand dollar  New Zealand

and Realm:
 Cook Islands

 Pitcairn Islands

1967 Informal 4,411,000
Israeli new sheqel  Israel


1927/1986 Informal 11,738,000
Jordanian dinar[14][15]  Jordan

 Palestine (West Bank only)

Informal 8,922,000
Russian ruble  Russia

 South Ossetia

2008 Informal 142,177,000
South African rand Multilateral Monetary Area  Lesotho

 South Africa

1974 Formal
de facto customs and monetary union for the SACU member countries
Swiss franc  Liechtenstein


1920 Informal
de facto economic and monetary union—1924 creation of a customs union, then members of the European Free Trade Association (a common market), and now also part of the European Single Market.
Turkish lira  Turkey

 Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

1983 Informal 75,081,100
United States dollar  United States

and insular areas:
 American Samoa
 United States Minor Outlying Islands
 Northern Mariana Islands
 Puerto Rico
 United States Virgin Islands

and Compact of Free Association members:  Marshall Islands
 Federated States of Micronesia

 El Salvador
 Turks and Caicos Islands
 British Virgin Islands
BES islands


(Panama only)

Formal for insular areas and sovereign status with Compact of Free Association,[16] informal for other areas 339,300,000

Note: Every customs and monetary union and economic and monetary union also has a currency union.

 Zimbabwe is theoretically in a currency union with four blocs as the South African rand, Botswana pula, British pound and US dollar freely circulate. The US Dollar was, until 2016, official tender.[17]

Additionally, the autonomous and dependent territories, such as some of the EU member state special territories, are sometimes treated as separate customs territory from their mainland state or have varying arrangements of formal or de facto customs union, common market and currency union (or combinations thereof) with the mainland and in regards to third countries through the trade pacts signed by the mainland state.[18]

Currency union in Europe

The European currency union is a part of the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union (EMU). EMU was formed during the second half of the 20th century after historic agreements, such as Treaty of Paris (1951), Maastricht Treaty (1992). In 2002, the euro, a single European currency, was adopted by 12 member states. Currently, the Eurozone has 20 member states. The other members of the European Union are required to adopt the euro as their currency (except for Denmark, which has been given the right to opt out), but there has not been a specific date set. The main independent institution responsible for stability of the euro is the European Central Bank (ECB). Together with 15 national banks it forms the European System of Central Banks. The Governing Board consists of the Executive Committee of the ECB and the governors of individual national banks, and determines the monetary policy, as well as short-term monetary objectives, key interest rates and the extent of monetary reserves.[19]


Community Currency Region Target date Notes
Bolivarian Alternative for America SUCRE Latin America
 ? It is planned to begin as an electronic currency involving all countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for America.
East African Community East African shilling Africa 2012 (not met), 2015 (not met), 2024[20]
West African Monetary Zone Eco Africa 2020[20] Inside Economic Community of West African States, planned to eventually merge with West African franc
ASEAN+3 Asian Monetary Unit Asia  ? a free trade agreements matrix partially established
Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf Khaleeji Arabian Peninsula c. 2013-2020[21][22] Oman and the United Arab Emirates do not intend to adopt the currency at first but will do at a later date.
African Economic Community Afro or Afriq Africa 2028[23] Planned for 2028 or later
Brazil, Argentina and possibly other countries Sur Latin America  ? As Financial Times reports, Brazil and Argentina will announce in January 2023 that they are starting preparatory work on a common currency "Sur" (South). The initiative would later be extended to invite other Latin American nations.[24]


Never materialized

  • proposed Pan-American monetary union – abandoned in the form proposed by Argentina
  • proposed monetary union between the United Kingdom and Norway using the pound sterling during the late 1940s and early 1950s
  • proposed gold-backed, pan-African monetary union put forward by Muammar Gaddafi prior to his death

See also


  1. "World Bank" (PDF). Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  2. Hafner, Kurt A.; Jager, Jennifer. "The Optimum Currency Area Theory and the EMU". Intereconomics. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  3. Global Economy, The. "Currency unions, Monetary unions". The Global Economy. Naven Valev. Retrieved 1 April 2021.
  4. "Study". Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  5. "Global Financial Integrity". Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  6. Enoch, Charles; Krueger, Russell. "Currency unions: key variables, definitions, measurement, and statistical improvement" (PDF). Bank for International Settlements. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  7. "History of currency unions". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  8. "History of Money in Malaysia: Colonial Notes & Coins". Bank Negara Malaysia. 2010. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  9. Quah, C. H.; Ho, Y. J. (2020). "Economic Feasibility of Malaysia and Singapore-Brunei Monetary Reunion: A Scrutiny during Major Financial Crises". Applied Economics Journal. 27 (1): 23–51.
  10. Anguilla and Montserrat are members of OECS currency union, but not of the CSME.
  11. To all intents and purposes a monetary union. They are the last two nations whose dollars have remained at par and mutually interchangeable since the days when the Spanish Dollar was the united currency of large areas of the New World and Southeast Asia.
  12. alongside the ngultrum
  13. Not official, but freely used as a tender in Nepal, due to primarily the economic flux with India and also the instability caused by that country's civil war.
  14. Zacharia, Janine (2010-05-31). "Palestinian officials think about replacing Israeli shekel with Palestine pound". The Washington Post and Times-Herald. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-08-22.
  15. Cobham, David (2004-09-15). "Alternative currency arrangements for a new Palestinian state" (PDF). In David Cobham (ed.). The Economics of Palestine: Economic Policy and Institutional Reform for a Viable Palestine State. London: Routledge. ISBN 9780415327619. Retrieved 2018-08-22.
  16. "Compact- Title 02 Article 05".
  17. "Zimbabwe abandons its currency". 2009-01-29. Retrieved 2019-10-15.
  18. EU Overseas countries and some other territories participate partially in the EU single market per part four of the Treaty Establishing the European Community Archived 2013-11-16 at the Wayback Machine; Some EU Outermost regions and other territories use the Euro of the currency union, others are part of the customs union; some participate in both unions and some in neither.
    Territories of the United States, Australian External Territories and Realm of New Zealand territories share the currency and mostly also the market of their respective mainland state, but are generally not part of its customs territory.
  19. "European Union". Retrieved 30 April 2019.
  20. Asongu, Simplice; Nwachukwu, Jacinta; Tchamyou, Vanessa (2016-08-01). "A Literature Survey on Proposed African Monetary Unions" (PDF). Journal of Economic Surveys. 31 (3): 878–902. doi:10.1111/joes.12174. ISSN 1467-6419. S2CID 38454408.
  21. "Kuwait sees GCC currency union taking up to 10 years". Archived from the original on 2010-03-03. Retrieved 2010-12-10.
  22. (in Hungarian)
  23. "A common currency at a later stage of Africa's economic integration".
  24. "Brazil and Argentina to begin preparations for common currency, Financial Times reports". Reuters. 2023-01-22. Retrieved 2023-01-22.
  25. Bolton, Sally (10 December 2001). "A history of currency unions". Retrieved 26 February 2012. France persuaded Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and Greece
  26. Not currently on any political agenda, based mostly off conspiracy theories.

Further reading

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