Commercial trading in eight European currencies virtually halted today after it was announced that the finance ministers of Common Market nations would meet at France’s request to negotiate realigning the values of their currencies.
Spokesman Karl-Heinz Von Den Driesch of the West German Finance Ministry said the Common Market’s Monetary Committee would begin meeting later today to discuss realigning the European Monetary System.
France asked for a realignment of the 7-year-old system “with the aim of a devaluation of the French franc,” Finance Minister Mark Eyskens of Belgium said.
A devaluation of the franc against other European currencies, notably the West German mark, would boost French exports.
The talks will be held at Ootmarsum, the Netherlands, before a weekend meeting there of the 12 Common Market finance ministers, Eyskens said. The ministers, who had been due to hold informal talks on other issues, must approve any realignment in exchange rates.
The suspension of trading left many tourists in Italy unable to obtain lire for foreign bank notes or travelers checks.
In Paris, banks generally stopped changing money, but in a pinch they traded small sums for regular customers.
Trading continued in the Netherlands, but became a matter of “some fantasy, and beyond that, as much wisdom as possible,” said Leo Zelders, a spokesman for the Dutch Border Exchange Offices, a money-changers’ organization.
Some Offices Exchanging
In Frankfurt, West Germany, and in Madrid, tourists seeking to trade small sums found exchange offices doing business as usual, accepting the European Monetary System’s eight currencies.
But central banks halted the buying and selling of the currencies, bringing trading to a near standstill.
The European Monetary System links the values of eight currencies--from Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Denmark, Ireland, West Germany, Italy and the Netherlands--through a formal exchange-rate mechanism.
There have been eight realignments in the currencies’ relative values since the system began in March, 1979, and all eight nations must agree to such changes.
Britain, Greece, Portugal and Spain are the only Common Market members whose currencies are not part of the exchange-rate regime.
The U.S. dollar would not be affected directly by such a realignment.