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Euro Makes Its Debut

Common currency adopted in Europe

by David Johnson
The Euro

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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.

The euro countries all belong to the political organization, the European Union (EU). Denmark, United Kingdom, and Sweden have not adopted the euro, although they may do so in the future.


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. The following countries adopted the euro: Slovenia (2007), Cyprus (2008), Malta (2008), Slovakia (2009), Estonia (2011), and Latvia (2014). 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.

Where the Euro Is Official Currency

Euro Conversion Rates

Eurozone Members—Previous Currency

Austria—schilling
Belgium—franc
Cyprus—pound
Estonia—kroon
Finland—markka
France—franc
Germany— mark
Greece—drachma
Ireland—punt (or pound)
Italy—lira
Latvia—lats
Luxembourg—franc
Malta—lira
The Netherlands—guilder
Portugal—escudo
Spain—peseta
Slovakia—koruna
Slovenia—tolars

Other Sovereign European Nations:

Andorra—Andorran peseta and Andorran franc
Monaco—French franc
San Marino—Italian lira
The Vatican—Italian lira

Sections of Serbia:

Kosovo—German mark
Montenegro—German mark

French Overseas Territories:

French Guiana—French franc
Guadeloupe—French franc
Martinique—French franc
Reunion Island—French franc

One euro is equal to:

13.7603—Austrian schillings
40.3399—Belgian francs
0.585274—Cyprus pounds
2.20371—Dutch guilders
15.6466—Estonian kroons
5.94573—Finnish markkaa
6.55957—French francs
1.95583—German marks
340.750—Greek drachmas
0.787564—Irish pounds
1936.2—Italian lira
0.702804—Latvian lats
40.3399—Luxembourg francs
0.4293000—Maltese lira
200.482—Portuguese escudos
30.1260—Slovak korunas
239.640—Slovenian tolars
166.386—Spanish pesetas


Information Please® Database, © 2007 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.

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