Commentary Type

Lessons for EU Integration from US History

Jacob Funk Kirkegaard (PIIE) and Adam S. Posen (PIIE), editors

Report to the European Commission


As the European Union and euro area contemplate how to reform and deepen the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), following their financial crisis, this report seeks insight from historical examples—good and bad—offered by the long history of US economic integration. The essays explore the principal economic tenets of a modern integrated state and how they developed in the United States: (1) formation of the US fiscal union, especially present day American fiscal institutions most relevant for Europe; (2) development of the Federal Reserve and its gain of the lender of last resort function; (3) evolution of and policies leading to a unified US banking system; and (4) shift from diverging regional to relatively synchronized national business cycles in the United States. One overall message of this analysis is that the European Union will remain a unique hybrid, part state and part international organization, for decades as the product of the exceptional political and economic circumstances in Europe since the mid-20th century. What matters for European integration, as this report describes, is how the modern US national economic institutions formed gradually during the 19th and 20th centuries not only within the confines of a changing federal constitution but also often in response to the specific political events and natural disasters of the time. The authors analyze the US responses throughout history to economic and political challenges and constraints—some similar to what Europe faces today. EU leaders should draw lessons from these US responses as they forge plans to reform the EMU.


1 Realistic European Integration in Light of US Economic History
Jacob Funk Kirkegaard and Adam S. Posen

2 A More Perfect (Fiscal) Union: US Experience in Establishing a Continent-Sized Fiscal Union and Its Key Elements Most Relevant to the Euro Area
Jacob Funk Kirkegaard

3 Federalizing a Central Bank: A Comparative Study of the Early Years of the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank
Jérémie Cohen-Setton and Shahin Vallée

4 The Long Road to a US Banking Union: Lessons for Europe
Anna Gelpern and Nicolas Véron

5 The Synchronization of US Regional Business Cycles: Evidence from Retail Sales, 1919–62
Jérémie Cohen-Setton and Egor Gornostay