Brussels, 18 December 2008
In less than a fortnight, the euro area will have two reasons to celebrate: the number of European Union countries that share the same currency will grow to 16 with Slovakia and it will be the 10th anniversary of the euro. A special €2 coin will be issued to commemorate the anniversary and a documentary film describing the road to the euro and its benefits will be screened today. In the meantime, preparations are in full swing in Slovakia.
Slovakia will adopt the euro on the 1st of January, becoming the 16th EU country to do so after 11 launched the common currency 10 years ago. On New Year's Day 328.6 million people out of the EU's 499.7 million will share the euro.
Commission President, Mr José Manuel Barroso, said: "I am delighted we will welcome Slovakia as the sixteenth member of the euro area on 1 January. 2009 will begin with around 329 million Europeans carrying euro notes and coins in their pockets. The euro has helped create 16 million jobs and over time has delivered lower inflation and lower interest rates than ever before. In the current time of crisis the euro is sheltering businesses from the exchange rate volatility which has battered them in previous downturns. To put it simply, the euro works. I am confident it will go from strength to strength in the next ten years and that we will welcome more members."
"The 1st of January 2009 will be a proud moment for the euro area but also for the EU as a whole as Slovakia becomes the 16th country to adopt the euro and the European currency celebrates its 10th anniversary. The euro has become the symbol of EU identity and is proving to be a solid and stabilising factor in currency markets both inside and outside the euro area. This is no mean feat as no other markets from banking to securities have been spared by the global financial and economic crisis. We should be proud of that record and we must safeguard the sound budgetary and macroeconomic framework that has made the euro such a success," said Joaquín Almunia, European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs.
The euro was created in 1999 when 11 countries irrevocably locked the bilateral exchange rates of their currencies and equipped themselves with a single monetary and exchange rate policy. The European Central Bank was created six months earlier. The banknotes and coins were introduced in 2002. Slovakia will adopt the euro at a rate of 30.1260 Slovak koruna to the common currency. Before it, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta also made the euro their money.
The euro has been a great success. Overall and notwithstanding the present challenging times, it has delivered greater price stability and lower interest rates than ever before for the countries, people and businesses that share it. It helped create a record 16 million jobs and enabled us to enter into the current crisis with the lowest unemployment rate and the best budgetary position in a long time among other sound fundamentals. Of course, we can and we must improve Economic and Monetary Union to make it even more successful in the next decade and beyond, as the EMU@10 Communication and Report of May 2008 shows all too well.
€2 commemorative coin and euro documentary
To celebrate the euro anniversary, euro area countries will issue from January 1st a total of 84 million €2 commemorative coins. The design of the special coin was selected through a popular web vote organised by the Commission.
A lively television documentary has also been commissioned on the origins and history of the euro, its benefits and how it is perceived. It will be screened today and will be available for download on the website of the Economic and Financial Affairs Directorate General (see below).
Slovakia ready for € changeover
Preparations for the euro are now entering a final stage in Slovakia. Commercial banks started receiving the banknotes and coins in September and have been supplying them to shops and other businesses so that they can handle payments and return change in euro from the 1st of January.
Citizens snapped up more than 90% of the 1,200,000 euro coin mini kits within only five days and, thanks to an information campaign that was speeded up in the last six months and includes TV spots and a touring information bus, feel well informed. Their concerns about price increases were taken seriously by the Slovak authorities that put in place a number of measures, including an Ethical Code signed by business whereby they undertake to respect the changeover rules. The display of prices in both euro and koruna is compulsory since 24 August and until 1 January 2010. The respect of the changeover rules is carefully monitored by the Slovak Trade Inspection, which has visited more than 15,000 shops and service providers since August. The inspectors corrected shortcomings in dual display of prices when found and checked on price movements in the sectors where problems were experienced in the previous changeovers in other countries (restaurants, hairdressers, cafes etc.). The Association of Slovak Consumers also plays a key role in checking price developments. The Commission has actively supported the communication campaign under a Partnership agreement of December 2007.
Businesses and public administrations have also prepared themselves well in advance and their personnel have been trained (especially for those in direct contact with the public). According to a survey by the Slovak Ministry of Finance carried mid-November, virtually all central and local administrations should have their IT systems converted and tested by 23 December.
To facilitate the changeover, the National Bank of Slovakia and commercial banks will be exceptionally open on 1 January as well as on the weekend of 3-4 January.
For detailed information on Slovakia's euro changeover see IP/08/1959 and:
Commission's 8th Report on the Practical Preparations for the Changeover:
Slovak national changeover web site:
For more information on the euro and its benefits see DG ECFIN's website
The 10-year anniversary special 'EMU@10' website
To see €2 commemorative coin:
For the documentary on the euro
 Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain
 See Eurostat release 179/2008 of 15 December
 EMU@10 – Successes and challenges after 10 years of Economic and Monetary Union