The European Common Currency
On 1 January 2002 euro notes and coins replaced the familiar national currencies in the 12 countries adopting the common currency. Today, there is in excess of €14,371,403,000 in Euro notes in circulation. Adoption of the Euro has generally resulted in rising prices in those countries adopting the currency. In simple terms, the rich have got richer and the poor have got poorer. Billions have been spent on infrastructure, but the amount of Euro investment in a country is in part illusory. Often the money is spent with German, French or contractors from other wealthy nations, with very little arriving in the local economy. What cares the peasant with a donkey and five olive trees if there is a new road to the airport? He will never use it. The benefit is for the international hoteliers and supermarkets, with the only benefit to the country in additional tax revenues. The price of the peasant's staple foods rises dramatically, but he receives no real benefit as compensation. The profit has gone to the Mayor, the local architects and construction companies from richer countries. At the present time, the following nations use the Euro and quite a few wish they did not.:
and Finland relinquished their national currencies in favour of the Euro. In addition, the new currency is used in Monaco, The Vatican, San Marino, Andorra, Kosovo and Montenegro and, strangely, Devil's Island!. Quite a few countries around the Euro zone will also take Euros for most purchases. Whatever one's view of the rights or wrongs of Britain adopting the Euro, or the problems it has brought for the poorer people in the nations adopting the currency, there is little doubt that for the tourist, it has made life a whole lot easier. The currency is simplicity itself for travellers, and it makes assessment of relative value of goods and services between countries very much easier.
Once you are in the Euro, getting out is difficult. If Greece is eventually forced to leave, the one certainty is that those with money in Greece will lose subtantial amounts over night. For certain, the least affected will be those who already have nothing!
EU countries not currently using the Euro are: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
There are seven euro bank notes: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 and eight coins: 1 cent, 2 cent, 5 cent, 10 cent, 20 cent, 50 cent and 1 and 2 euro. The notes are smaller than sterling notes and incorporate illustrations of bridges, gateways and windows; they are designed to reflect the national identity of the country of issue, but are useable in any of the eurozone countries. Euro notes also include a watermark, security thread and a hologram showing the value and the euro symbol. The coins are different on one side in each country, but can be used in any of the twelve countries. Images of the coins are available at www.euro.ecb.int
The value of the Euro has seen some quite substantial fluctuations. In recent years the £ sterling has been worth around €1.20 to €1.14. Some economists predict that the currency will continue to fluctuate, particularly with recent problems in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Italy. Up-to-date exchange rates can be found in most newspapers and at the European Central Bank web site at: www.euro.ecb.int They also offer a currency converter and there is a useful leaflet on the Euro at www.euro.gov.uk/trav_leaflet.asp
Credit card use is unaffected but if you pay for purchases with a debit or credit card, your account will be debited by the sterling equivalent of the euro.
Specimen pictures of the most common coins and notes are included in the pictures to the left.
A banker is a person who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining and wants it back the minute it rains.
Mark twain (1835 - 1910)