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The euro turns 20

The New Year began with important news: 1 January 2019 marked the 20th anniversary of perhaps one of the most monumental decisions the EU has ever made – the adoption of the euro.

Although the euro is a relatively new currency, it has become the second most traded currency, behind only the US dollar.

On its 20th birthday, we collected some interesting facts about the euro. Read on and find out what you didn’t know about Europe’s single currency!

Interesting facts about the euro

The Economic and Monetary Union – also known as the eurozone – came into effect on 1 January 1999 with 11 countries who decided to stop using their national currency in favour of a single currency, the euro. For ordinary citizens, however, little changed until euro banknotes and coins were introduced in 2002.

As of 2019, the euro is the currency of 340 million Europeans in 19 Member States. It is also used by four non-EU countries, including Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican City.

The symbol of the euro is €, based on the Greek epsilon (ε) character, representing “E” for Europe. The two parallel lines across the centre symbolise stability.

There are seven different banknotes, each one with a different colour, size and face value, while coins are of eight different amounts. The euro notes represent both the EU and the countries: each banknote and coin has a standard EU design on one side and a country-specific design on the other side.

The symbol of the European family

Those who live at the heart of Europe quickly embraced the idea of a single currency. Austria, for example, is only 250 km from Slovenia. Exchanging currencies is expensive, and you can lose even more by changing back what is left at the end of the trip. Thanks to the euro, however, for the last 20 years citizens can travel in the eurozone without having to exchange their currencies.

The euro has also made it easier for Europeans to compare prices across borders, encouraging tourism and international trade among Member States.

Altogether 20 currencies were replaced by the euro, including the German mark, the French franc, the Italian lira and the Austrian schilling. And although adapting to a new currency always raises challenges, the euro is widely recognised as an important element of European integration, and there is little support for abandoning it.

By and large, the adoption of the euro is a success story. Despite its imperfections, it has survived and helped to bring European people and countries closer together. What will the future bring for Europe’s single currency? Only time will tell…

Written by Dóra Rapcsák

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