Europe’s shared notes and coins turn 20 at New Year’s

Dec 31, 2021, 4:24 AM | Updated: 4:04 pm

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The European Central Bank is celebrating the 20th anniversary of euro notes and coins as member countries wrestle with the pandemic’s impact on the economy and the European Union forges a new level of financial cooperation to help boost the recovery.

The event is being marked at midnight New Year’s Eve with a light display in blue and yellow, the colors of the EU, projected on its skyscraper headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany.

The introduction of notes and coins in 12 countries on Jan. 1, 2002, was a massive logistical undertaking that followed up on the introduction of the euro for accounting purposes and electronic payments three years earlier, on Jan. 1, 1999. Today, the euro is used in 19 of 27 EU countries.

The cash introduction saw the new euro notes and coins quickly replace German marks, French francs and Italian lire in ATMs, cash registers, and wallets and purses. Shop customers who paid in the old currencies received change in euros under fixed exchange rates. That swept the old currencies out of circulation as people spent their remaining national cash.

Warnings of a logistical catastrophe did not come true. ECB President Christine Lagarde — in 2002 an attorney with a global law firm — recalled withdrawing her first euros from a cash machine near her home in Normandy with friends who predicted the switch would overload the machines. “We made a bet: if the machine gave us French francs instead of euro notes, they could keep the money,” she wrote on the ECB’s website. “After midnight, we tried the cash machine. It dispensed brand new crisp euro banknotes, and we all raised a glass to the new European currency.”

The bank plans to redesign the banknotes, with a final decision on the new look expected in 2024. The original designs with generic windows, doorways and bridges from various eras that don’t represent any specific place or monument have undergone one relatively minor update since introduction. The bank is also studying a possible digital version of the currency.

The euro has been through its ups and downs since its launch as a major project of European integration. The currency union faced speculation it would break up during an extended crisis over government and bank debt in 2011-2015. European Central Bank head Mario Draghi helped end market turbulence with his July 26, 2012, promise to “do whatever it takes” to preserve the euro, followed by the ECB’s offer to purchase the government debt of countries facing excessive borrowing costs.

Under Lagarde, the central bank deployed a 1.85 trillion euro ($2.1 trillion) bond purchase program aimed at keeping borrowing costs down for companies so they can get through the worst of the pandemic.

In response to the pandemic, European Union governments have taken a further step toward economic and financial integration by agreeing to borrow money together for the 807 billion euro Next Generation EU recovery fund. The fund aims to support the post-pandemic recovery by financing projects that help the economy reduce emissions of carbon dioxide in order to fight climate change, and that support increasing use of digital technology.

Finance ministers from euro member countries said in a joint article published in major European newspapers that there’s still work to be done on reinforcing the shared currency, such as improving the way private investments flow across borders and strengthening joint banking oversight to prevent costly crises.

“None of these issues can be addressed by countries acting alone,” they wrote. “The euro is proof of what we can achieve when we work together.”

Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, who heads the Eurogroup panel of finance ministers from the member countries, said that the currency “has strengthened its foundations over the last 20 years. It’s proven its mettle in dealing with great challenges and great crises.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


A demonstrator in Tel Aviv holds a sign calling for a cease-fire in the Hamas-Israel war on Nov. 21...

Associated Press

Hamas releases a third group of hostages as part of truce, and says it will seek to extend the deal

The fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was back on track Sunday as the first American was released under a four-day truce.

4 days ago

Men look over the site of a deadly explosion at Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, Wednesday, Oct. 18, ...

Associated Press

New AP analysis of last month’s deadly Gaza hospital explosion rules out widely cited video

The Associated Press is publishing an updated visual analysis of the deadly Oct. 17 explosion at Gaza's Al-Ahli Hospital.

7 days ago

Peggy Simpson holds a photograph of law enforcement carrying Lee Harvey Oswald's gun through a hall...

Associated Press

JFK assassination remembered 60 years later by surviving witnesses to history, including AP reporter

Peggy Simpson is among the last surviving witnesses who are sharing their stories as the nation marks the 60th anniversary.

7 days ago

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, ...

Associated Press

Israeli Cabinet approves cease-fire with Hamas; deal includes release of 50 hostages

Israel’s Cabinet on Wednesday approved a cease-fire deal with the Hamas militant group that would bring a temporary halt to a devastating war.

8 days ago

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump helps serve food to Texas Natio...

Associated Press

Trump receives endorsement from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott during a visit to a US-Mexico border town

Donald Trump picked up the Texas governor’s endorsement Sunday during a visit to a U.S.-Mexico border town.

10 days ago

Eric Trump, executive vice president of Trump Organization Inc., speaks to the media as he leaves f...

Associated Press

Lawyers in Trump’s civil fraud trial are ordered to clam up about judge’s communications with staff

Eric Trump testified Friday that he was relying on accountants to ensure the accuracy of financial statements.

26 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(KTAR News Graphic)...

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Follow @KTAR923...

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Follow @KTAR923...

The 2023 Diamondbacks are a good example to count on the underdog

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the World Series as a surprise. That they made the playoffs at all, got past the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card round, swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and won two road games in Philadelphia to close out a full seven-game NLCS went against every expectation. Now, […]

Europe’s shared notes and coins turn 20 at New Year’s