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Brussels, 28 March 2006

2005 report on the protection of euro coins against counterfeiting notes

The Commission is presenting its annual report on the protection of euro coins against fraud and counterfeiting. The report presents the activities undertaken by the Commission for the protection of the euro and the police authorities’ continued successes in repression In 2005 an increasing, yet low, number of counterfeit euro coins was removed from circulation, while an increase in the diversity and sophistication of counterfeit euro coins was recorded.

Globally, certain types of counterfeit euro coins may be deceptive in hand-to-hand transactions, especially the 2-euro counterfeits, but they should generally be rejected by properly adjusted vending and other coin-operated machines. Their number is small compared to the 63 billion circulating genuine euro coins. 96.000 counterfeit euro coins were removed from circulation in 2005, an increase of about 29% from 2004, and 3.557 were seized before circulation, bringing to about 365 000 the total number of counterfeits recorded since the introduction of the euro coins. This number is considerably lower than the counterfeit coins of legacy currencies, before the introduction of the euro. The counterfeits are mostly 2-euro with German national side.

Strengthening cooperation with national authorities

In the year 2005 the Commission (OLAF – ETSC[1]) continued its action to protect the euro, coins and banknotes, against counterfeiting, in close cooperation with the competent national authorities, the ECB, Europol and Interpol. This effort materialised through the Commission’s groups of experts as well as the actions carried out by Member States and the Commission under the Pericles programme[2]. In 2005, two Pericles seminars concerned specifically euro coins – in Paris and in Rome.

In order to reinforce the secure distribution of genuine coins to the users, the Commission issued, on 27 May 2005, a Recommendation concerning authentication of euro coins and handling of euro coins unfit for circulation and took specific technical initiatives.

The Commission strongly believes any confusion in the minds of consumers about validity of euro coins should be avoided. The European Commission is in close contact with Turkish authorities, Member States and the coin operated industry to minimise all possible confusion for users with regard to Turkish coins, sometimes considered to resemble euro coins. Current information suggests that, although a risk exists, it is limited. At the level of hand-to-hand transactions, euro coins are readily distinguishable - by simple visual inspection. Vending machines will reject Turkish coins if properly adjusted; the Commission has kept the manufacturers of coin mechanisms informed, so that they are able to make the necessary adjustments to the relevant equipment. The Turkish authorities have agreed to modify slightly the production parameters of the new coins. These revised parameters improve the recognition of these coins by vending machines. The Commission is aiming to ensure that future changes in Turkish coins will eliminate the possibility of confusion.

Increased diversification and sophistication of euro counterfeits

The year 2005 witnessed an increasing diversity of counterfeit euro coins, where the types of counterfeits rose by one third. Thus the number of potentially produced counterfeits may be well above ten million pieces. Counterfeits also become increasingly sophisticated, as a rising proportion now approaches also the material properties of the genuine coins. However, the specifications of the genuine euro coins are very tight and are precisely respected, so that these properties have not been copied with a high degree of precision.

Successful law enforcement actions

Three illegal euro coin workshops were discovered in 2005, in Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary, thus bringing to eleven the total number of illegal workshops dismantled since the introduction of the euro coins. Nevertheless, the current successful action to protect euro coins against counterfeiting will need to be continued and enhanced. A conference organised in Paris in November 2005 on this issue stressed the need for a double approach: On the one hand the European Technical and Scientific Centre should play a stronger role, assisted by specific technical working groups, with a view to supporting law enforcement coordinated by Europol. On the other hand, for the effective detection of counterfeits and the separation of other objects, such as foreign coins, it is necessary for all participating Member States to implement the Commission Recommendation of May 2005, concerning the authentication of euro coins.

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[1] European Technical and Scientific Centre, established in OLAF with Commission Decision of 20 October 2005 in order to reinforce the protection of the euro coins, carries out technical analysis and classification of counterfeit euro coins.

[2] Pericles programme is a Community programme for financing actions to protect the euro banknotes and coins against counterfeiting – One million euros yearly – for seminars, conferences, staff exchanges and technical assistance together with national authorities.

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