The European Single Currency, often referred to as the Euro or EMU (Economic and Monetary Union), was launched on 1st January 1999. There are 15 member states of the European Union. From these, eleven have joined the Euro:
Greece (joined January 2001)
The United Kingdom
The Euro was officially launched by unifying Interest rates across all participating member states and irreversibly locking exchange rates. The euro is now used for electronic financial transactions in these countries, such as credit card transactions, and people living in these countries can choose to take out bank accounts or mortgages priced in Euros rather than in their national currencies.
The currency was conceived in the eighties by the then Chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl, President of the European Commission Jacques Delors and President of France François Mitterand.
The eleven countries in the Euro (often called ‘Euroland’) have a combined population of over 290m – larger than that of the United States. However, the combined GDP of these countries is lower than that of the United States and they suffer from higher rates of Unemployment.
The finance industry changed over to the Euro on January 1st 1999, and a changeover throughout the entire economy took place on January 1st 2002 when European notes and coins were introduced alongside national currencies. For two months after this, there was ‘dual-pricing’ of goods, before national currencies cease to be legal tender.
Each country in the Euro is responsible for minting their own coins, which feature a national symbol on the reverse. For example, German coins have an eagle on the reverse, Spanish coins have a portrait of the King, Irish coins feature a picture of a harp, and if the UK decided to join, British coins would display a portrait of the Queen. Euro banknotes, however, will be standardised across the EU. This means that if the UK joins the Euro, the Queen’s head will not feature on Euro notes, and that Scottish banknotes will disappear. These notes and coins will not be introduced until 2002.