Euro Makes Its Debut
Common currency adopted in Europe
On January 2, 2002, the new European currency, the euro, became official in 12 countries, known as the eurozone. The original currencies were no longer accepted in transactions after Feb. 28, 2002.
The 12 nations that adopted the euro are: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. With a population of slightly more than 300 million people, the eurozone became one huge market.
New Members Join
Cyprus, The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined the EU in 2004. These former Communist nations with weak economies and high inflation welcomed EU membership since it brought easy access to western European markets. Joining the eurozone also made it easier for rich countries, such as Germany, to invest in Eastern Europe.
The Euro Denominations
The euro is available in seven different bills and eight separate coins. The bills are available in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euro denominations.
The coins are available in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 euro cents, and 1 and 2 euro denominations. Nations may change the term "cent" if they wish, and call the new coins by the names of earlier currency. It is likely the Germans will call their coins "euro-pfennigs" and the French will refer to theirs as "euro-centimes."
While all the coins will have the same front, each country will putting national symbols on the back of those coins minted in that country. Regardless of what they are called in each nation and what symbols they display, the coins will be interchangeable. Coins minted in different countries may differ minutely in size.
The Euro's Value
The euro fluctuates against the dollar, the Japanese yen, and other major currencies. But it has a fixed value against the currencies it replaced. People turning in German marks, for example, received a fixed number of euros. By keeping the exchange rates stable, currency speculation, and its potential for destabilizing a nation's economy, was avoided.
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