FRANKFURT, Germany – The European Central Bank celebrated the 20th anniversary of the euro banknotes and coins on Friday as member countries tackle the impact of the pandemic on the economy and the European Union forges a new level of cooperation financial support to help stimulate recovery.
The event was celebrated at midnight on New Years Eve with an illuminated display in blue and yellow, the colors of the EU, projected onto its skyscraper headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany.
The introduction of banknotes and coins in 12 countries on January 1, 2002 was a logistical undertaking that followed the introduction of the euro for accounting and electronic payment purposes three years earlier, on January 1, 1999. Today , the euro is used in 19 of the 27 EU countries.
The introduction of cash saw the new euro banknotes and coins quickly replace German marks, French francs and Italian lire in ATMs, cash registers, wallets and purses. Shop customers who paid in old currencies received change in euros at fixed exchange rates. It swept the old currencies out of circulation as people spent their remaining national money.
Warnings of a logistical disaster did not come true. The President of the European Central Bank Christine Lagarde – in 2002, a lawyer in a global law firm – recalled having withdrawn her first euros from an ATM near her home in Normandy with friends who had predicted that the change would overload the machines. “We made a bet: if the machine gave us French francs instead of euro banknotes, they could keep the money,” she wrote on the website of the European Central Bank. “After midnight we tried the cash machine. It handed out brand new 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, doors and bridges from different eras that do not represent any specific place or monument have undergone an update. relatively minor update since introduction. The bank is also studying a possible digital version of the currency.
The euro has had its ups and downs since its launch as a major European integration project. The monetary union has faced speculation that it will break down during a protracted public and bank debt crisis in 2011-15. The President of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, helped end the market turmoil with his July 26, 2012 pledge to “do whatever it takes” to preserve the euro, followed by the offer of the European Central Bank to buy the public debt of countries facing excessive borrowing costs.
Under Lagarde, the central bank rolled out a $ 2.1 trillion bond buying program aimed at lowering borrowing costs for companies so they could weather the worst of the pandemic.
In response to the pandemic, the governments of the European Union have taken a further step towards economic and financial integration by agreeing to borrow money together for the EU’s Next Generation stimulus fund of 918 billion euros. dollars. The fund aims to support the post-pandemic recovery by financing projects that help the economy reduce carbon dioxide emissions to fight climate change, and that support the growing use of digital technology.
Finance ministers from euro member countries said in a joint article published in major European newspapers that there was still work to be done to strengthen the shared currency, such as improving the way private investment crosses borders and strengthen joint banking supervision to avoid costly crises.
“None of these problems can be solved 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 panel of finance ministers of Eurogroup member countries, said the currency “has strengthened its foundations over the past 20 years. It has been proven to cope with great challenges and great crises “.