How The Euro Came To Be 20 Years Ago

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How The Euro Came To Be 20 Years Ago
How The Euro Came To Be 20 Years Ago

When Europe rang in the New Year 20 years ago, it said goodbye to its deutschmarks, French francs, liras, and pesetas in favor of the euro single currency.

Euro notes and coins became a reality for some 300 million people from Athens to Dublin on January 1, 2002, three years after the currency was formally launched in “virtual” form. The following is a summary of the event, taken from AFP copy at the time:

Fireworks, music, and lights blazed out at midnight January 1, 2002 to mark the largest monetary switch in history, a far cry from the austere New Year celebrations imposed by Covid 20 years later.

According to AFP, many people skipped their traditional New Year’s Eve parties, instead lining up at cash dispensers in order to get their hands on the first pristine euro notes.

Germans said hello to the euro and goodbye to their beloved mark at a special ceremony at the Brandenburg Gate, as up to one million people thronged the streets for the city’s traditional massive New Year’s street party.

The euro cash was also popular in Amsterdam’s coffee shops and red light district.

Irish revellers, on the other hand, were less eager to welcome the euro, continuing to pay for Guinness, Ireland’s favorite tipple, in the national currency, deferring the headache of the switchover until the following day. The euro switch, as many predicted, resulted in sporadic price increases across Europe.

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From Spanish bus tickets that increased by 33% to a Finnish bazaar where “everything for 10 markka (1.68 euros)” became “everything for two euros,” many prices have risen since the euro became legal tender.

Wim Duisenberg, the president of the European Central Bank at the time, warned merchants not to use the euro launch to raise prices, but said he had not seen widespread abuse.

France urged citizens not to rush to banks with their savings, which were often stashed under mattresses and in jam jars, because they had until June 30 to get rid of their francs at commercial banks and until 2012 at the Bank of France.