Brussels, 28 February 2002
Saying goodbye to the national currencies
On Thursday 28 February we say officially goodbye to the last national currencies in the euro-zone. Today is the end of the dual circulation period. As of the 1st of March the euro will be the only legal tender currency in the 12 euro-zone member states. According to the latest survey over 80% of the euro-zone citizens judge the euro changeover successful and almost 70% declare themselves happy that the euro has become their new currency. "The euro changeover has been an enormous success for Europe, for the European citizens, for our new money. All thanks to the enthusiasm of the European people who have shown capable and ready to rally with resolve and determination behind ideas that make good sense for them, for their daily lives and for their future" said European Commission President Romano Prodi. The vast majority are looking forward with enthusiasm to the advantages that the euro will bring to their daily lives, like the ability to compare easily prices between countries, increased growth prospects, stability of prices. Despite the wide enthusiasm a minority of citizens continue however to have some practical problems to familiarise themselves with the new coins and notes and that is why the Commission continues during the first semester of 2002 to co-finance information campaigns targeting particularly the most vulnerable population groups across the euro-zone countries.
According to the latest survey, carried out by the Commission on 21-31 January (full report available on: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion), 81% of citizens judge the euro changeover was successful. 87% declare that the euro changeover was smooth for them perosnally. 60% of euro-zone citizens feel that the euro will bring to them advantages (+12 points compared to December 2001) as opposed to 28% with the opposite view. 67% declare themselves happy that the euro has become their currency. 86% (+8 points) think that euro will facilitate the comparison of prices cross border; 66% (+8 points) that it will facilitate growth; 71% (+10 points) that it will be an international currency.
On the other hand, in the eyes of the majority of Europeans (67%) the euro changeover has resulted in rounding up of prices. Eurostat publishes today (STAT/23/2002) the final data on January 2002 HICP together with an analysis of the euro changeover impact on prices. This analysis points out that perceptions are not necessarily supported by facts. Eurostat statistical analysis points clearly out that the euro changeover effect on prices, despite the general rise in the year on year and month on month January 2002 HICP, has been limited: in the range of 0.0% to 0.16%. On the other hand, it is understandable that for citizens it is very difficult to distinguish between price increases linked to bad weather, tax increases, energy prices and the euro changeover effect. It is also understandable that the citizen during the first month of the year focuses his attention to products that he or she has to buy every day and does not consider the prices of services that he/she pays monthly or quarterly.
"Beyond the enthusiasm of Europeans, meticulous logistical and technical preparations have been a key factor of success for the euro changeover. The banking and the retail sector contributions were crucial to the success" said Pedro Solbes, EU Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs. "Having completed the euro changeover it is now time to exploit the adavantages of the single currency for the citizens individually and the economy at large. Through successful and consistent economic policy co-ordination we have to further modernise our economies and ensure the much needed rise in Europe's growth potential".
Frontloading has been a key success factor
In total, through the frontloading of banks, retailers and citizens, 6 billion of euro banknotes of a total value of 132 bn (i.e.40% of the total volume of production or 80% of the volume of notes in circulation by the end of January 2002) and 37.5 billion of euro coins of a total value of 12.4 billion (i.e. 73.5% of the total volume of production or 97% of the coins in use by the end of January) were frontloaded before the 1 January 2002. This is an impressive logistical achievement particularly when considering that no major security incidents took place. In the period September to December 2001, when the frontloading took place, only 27 robberies of euro banknotes and 17 robberies of euro coins were reported thanks to the security measures taken by the authorities. For comparison during the year of 2000 there were 5184 successful bank robberies in the euro-zone.
Although the frontloading of banks was overall successful throughout the euro-zone, it is true that the sub-frontloading of retailers was very unequal. In certain countries the logistical preparations and the constraints for this operations made it difficult. On average banks sub-frontloaded only 9% of the value of euro banknotes received to a fraction of the 2.8 million retailers in the eurozone.
Citizens were very enthusiastic in buying euro coin mini-kits in the last two weeks of December. In total they bought 150.3 million mini-kits, including 4280 million coins (on average 14 coins per person).
Banks and retailers in the frontline
Banks have done an incredible job in assisting the changeover. 80% of ATMs were giving out euro on 1 January 2002; 97% on 3rd January. Through their 218000 branches in the euro-zone, they provided regular service to their customers.
Retailers small and big - have been in the frontline more than any other economic agent. They, in their majority, gave back change in euro in the majority of cases from the very first days. On 3 January already 40% of cash transactions were done both ways in euro as an average. This reached 85% at the 10 January and 95% at the end of the second week of January.
The success and demand for euro notes and coins resulted in an increased demand for diffusion of euros. The 7585 lorries involved in the transportation of cash throughout the euro-zone worked to the maximum of their capacity during the first month, mainly to deliver euros and as a second priority to take back national currencies.
Counterfeiting? No serious problems
No serious counterfeiting incidents have been reported another huge success. In total only about fifty incidents of use of badly counterfeited notes were reported in January (photocopies, scanned notes, etc but no real counterfeits). As a comparison, an average of 2000 copies of national banknotes were detected daily in 2000.
The Commission will adopt a full report on the euro changeover, including detailed country-by-country analysis and information, for the European Council in Barcelona on 6 March 2002.