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Euro information strategy: final stages of implementing EMU
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 2 February 2000 on communications strategy in the last phases of the completion of EMU [COM (2000) 57 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
Eleven Member States adopted the euro as their official currency on 1 January 1999, the date set by the Treaty on European Union. The transition period, during which the euro can be used only as scriptural (non-cash) money, will end at midnight on 31 December 2001. From that date, banks will issue only euro notes and coins. Member States will make their best efforts to ensure that the bulk of cash transactions will be made in euro by the end of a fortnight from 1 January. The period of dual circulation must be short so that the withdrawal of national notes and coins is complete by the beginning of March 2002.
The Commission has been conducting a very active information campaign on the euro since 1995. In 1998, it announced its commitment to the information campaign by adopting a communication on the information strategy for the euro. The campaign was allocated a large budget under the PRINCE programme (information programme for the European citizen). Parliament has consistently backed the efforts made by the Commission.
The Commission has also given high priority to partnering multiplier organisations and has endeavoured at the same time to encourage Member States to conduct their own information campaigns. As a result, free phones, special internet sites and exhibitions have been set up in several Member States. The purpose of all these measures has been to raise the awareness of certain target audiences and provide them with information.
Private-sector information providers have also been very diligent in their efforts to raise awareness among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
When the changeover to the euro took place, it was found that the general public was tending to forget the information that had bee disseminated. Very few businesses have converted their accounting over to the euro, whilst most SMEs have not yet taken the necessary steps to use the euro. On the other hand, dual pricing displays are being provided across a wide spectrum of retailing and service activities.
On the basis of these findings, the Commission has decided to refocus its policy for 2000 and 2001.
To ensure that the campaign meets with complete success, the Commission and the information authorities of the Member States have defined the principles that will help to achieve that target:
- definition of clear, specific objectives for each target group;
- application of the principle of subsidiarity and promotion of measures taken by Member States;
- subsidiarity leads to proximity. The information is more likely to be taken seriously if it comes from the regional and local authorities rather than from remote organisations. Proximity, however, means committing the necessary human resources to act as contact points;
- cooperation between all the actors involved, both national and European (European Central Bank, Committee of the Regions, Economic and Social Committee). Such cooperation calls for very tight coordination;
- flexibility is needed to assess the results of the information campaign and, if necessary, review the procedures.
All businesses in the euro area will have to use the euro for their transactions from 1 January 2002. According to studies carried out, most Community businesses do not have any detailed strategy for the changeover. There is a risk that thousands of firms will attempt to change over to the euro at the last minute, causing problems for consumers and indeed for the whole euro area economy.
The aim is to persuade businesses to plan the changeover to the euro, to draw up a timetable, to provide for the necessary human resources and to prepare a budget.
Certain types of business will need closer monitoring, such as small firms, small retailers, firms in tourist or outlying areas, and firms in pre-in countries.
Local or regional authorities are better able to stimulate information channels that are "closer" to firms, such as consultants, accountants and the large companies that work with SMEs.
As regards the timetable, the information campaign will be intensive throughout 2000 and will be reviewed in 2001.
The general public
The general public must also be well prepared for the transition to the euro. It must be able to recognise the different coins and notes and be familiar with prices and values expressed in euros.
Research has shown that people have already forgotten some of the information they received in previous information campaigns. It therefore seems appropriate to:
- remind consumers why the European Union adopted the euro;
- reassure people that, even after the dual circulation period, old banknotes will retain their value;
- continue initiatives such as the logo "payment in euros accepted" and monitor their use;
- set up and strengthen local observatories for the euro.
The general public should continue to be informed throughout 2000 about all the advantages that the euro will bring to economic life and to their daily lives. In 2001, however, the information campaign will have to be intensified so that the public is ready to use the euro.
Groups in need of special help
The information strategy must be adapted to the needs of certain specific population groups which do not have access to the traditional channels of information, such as:
- persons suffering from economic and social marginalisation;
- persons who are socially isolated;
- persons suffering from physical disabilities (blind, visually impaired, deaf or aurally impaired) or mental disabilities;
- persons who are illiterate.
The messages to these groups will remain the same as those addressed to the general public but in a form adapted to their needs.
In 2000 information actions started in 1999 will be continued and 2001 will see the culmination of the campaign.
The euro was introduced in schools at the beginning of the school year in September 1999. This is a very important target group since it can serve as an information channel, with young people helping to pass on the information to those around them (parents, the elderly, etc.). The 2000 school year will be the last chance to launch new initiatives.
"Pre-in" countries and third countries
The "pre-in" countries, which have not yet adopted the euro, (Denmark, the United Kingdom and Sweden) are also a target group because of their strong links with Member States that are part of the euro area.
For third countries, economic and trade ties and the presence of the euro as a major currency for financial markets are reasons for continuing and intensifying the euro information effort.
The Commission suggests that indicators and benchmarks be fixed in order to help Member States to measure progress being made by their communications activities. The public-sector and the private-sector indicators should be harmonised.
COMMUNICATIONS ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The role of the European Parliament is fundamental to the definition, assessment and implementation of the euro communication strategy, and also for the allocation of appropriations.
The principle of subsidiarity means that the main responsibility for communicating on the euro lies with Member States. Most have already prepared an information strategy.
The Commission will for its part will continue to inform businesses, the general public, tourists and third countries, and will coordinate the activities of all the other actors.
In 1999 the European Central Bank (ECB) launched a major information campaign, the "Euro 2002", which will reach its climax at the end of 2001. The campaign is aimed at the general public, businesses, the public authorities and various information multipliers. Its aims are to:
- help the public to recognise and prepare for the introduction of euro coins and banknotes;
- show retailers and banks how to detect possible counterfeits.
of entry into force
|Deadline for implementation in the Member States|
|COM(2000) 57 final||-||-|
For additional information, visit the following website of the European Commission Economic and Financial Affairs Directorate-General: