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Brussels, 2 February 2000

Commission launches final stage of communication campaign for the euro

Commission calls for a sustained and concentrated communication campaign for the final phase before the changeover to the euro. In a Communication to the Council and the European Parliament prepared by Pedro Solbes, EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Education and Culture, the Commission updates the priorities and the strategy of the campaign for the introduction of the euro. Companies, particularly SMEs, the general public and non-participant countries will be at the focus of this campaign over the next two years. While Member States carry the main responsibility for communicating on the euro, the Commission confirms its commitment to the euro campaign by proposing, with the support of the European Parliament, appropriate financing, ensuring proper co-ordination of all actors involved and by introducing a proper monitoring of the results of the campaign.

The introduction of the euro on 1 January 1999 was a total success : banks, debt, share and foreign exchange markets all changed over to the euro in an orderly and well-prepared manner. The euro immediately established itself as one of the world's leading currencies, with euro-denominated bond issues matching those in dollars. Given that the transition period will end at midnight on 31 December 2001, that as from 1 January 2002 banks will only issue euro notes and coins and that the bulk of cash transactions will be made in euro by the beginning of March 2002 at the latest, the Commission proposes to update the priorities and strategy of the information campaign and encourage the introduction of close monitoring arrangements in order to ensure a successful changeover to the euro.

The target groups

The following three groups lie at the centre of the campaign for the remaining period to 1 January 2002

Enterprises, especially SMEs

There is a real danger that some SMEs will not have made the necessary internal adjustments to be able to keep on trading after the end of the transition period on 31 December 2001 or leave their changeover until the last moment. This would create bottlenecks and resource shortages and could create great confusion among consumers.

The Commission sets therefore as an objective:

    (i) to ensure that all enterprises and consultants understand that they cannot continue using old national currency units in their accounting after the end of the transitional period on 31.12.2001;

    (ii) to persuade all businesses, right down to the smallest craftsman or retailer, that they must have:

    - a date for being ready to trade in euros and for changing internal accounts over to the euro. This can be an important issue affecting the competitiveness of a business;

    - a plan for the changeover (what are the tasks to be carried out and by when);

    - the resources, human, financial and otherwise, needed to carry out the plan.

The general public

A well informed and well prepared population is necessary so that all other aspects of the changeover can pass off smoothly. Citizens and consumers therefore need to be totally prepared by the time they start handling euro notes and coins, i.e. before 1 January 2002 at the latest.

The Commission aims to ensure that all euro-zone citizens:

    -  know the conversion rate of their own currency and the fact that it really is irrevocable;

-  understand prices and values in euro;

    -  understand the practical implications for their salaries, pensions and other income;

-  are at ease with the look and feel of the new notes and coins;

-  understand the advantages of the single currency.

Moreover, the Commission will develop strategies to reach the groups of people in our societies who do not have easy access to traditional information flows and "euro language" information material.

Non-participant countries

The Communication distinguishes needs, according to the particular country's relationship to the euro area: that is, whether they are non-participating Member States (pre-ins), candidates for EU membership or third countries. The Commission plans to actively pursue information campaigns towards the three groups.

The strategy

The communications strategy should succeed in being cost effective and in mobilising the support of the people. This should be done by close co-ordination and co-operation between all actors involved, i.e. the Member States, the European Parliament, the private sector, and the European Central Bank which is starting a major campaign this year. The most effective efforts will be mounted by and in Member States in full respect of the subsidiarity and proximity principles established in the campaigns so far.

The campaign will pursue a sequencing strategy as follows:

In 2000 the primary focus of the campaign will be enterprises, especially SMEs, which will have to be urged to prepare in good time. A steady flow of information to the general public and the vulnerable part of the population should also be maintained.

In 2001 there will be an intensification of the campaign targeting the general public and its more vulnerable sections. The campaign for enterprises must be continued and be readjusted as necessary to take account of the changed situation as shown by survey results.

The campaign will need to continue into the early months of 2002, during the period of dual circulation and possibly beyond.

The Commission proposes close monitoring and evaluation of the results. Wherever possible, public and private actors should identify indicators and set benchmarks which will help them to measure progress being made by their communication activities. The objectives and instruments of the campaigns should be kept under review and adjusted according to results. The Commission plans to support these monitoring activities by regular six-monthly surveys in 2000 and 2001.

The funding

As any successful information campaign needs funding, the Commission is proposing that adequate funds are provided for the euro changeover campaign over the next three years. The European Parliament has so far been supportive of this effort. Through the PRINCE programme (information programme for the European citizen) the campaign "the euro, one currency for Europe" has committed more than € 115 million since 1996. A further €32 million is earmarked for the campaign in year 2000. The Commission plans to ask the budgetary authority for additional funding in 2001 and 2002.

Two thirds of the money is given to Member States under Agreements creating a partnership between the Member State, the Commission and the Parliament. The Community resources are leveraged as each Member State must at least match the volume of funds it is receiving from the Union's budget for its campaign. Altogether, 13 agreements are in operation this year (the 11 countries participating in the euro plus Greece and Sweden). The remaining funds are used directly by the Commission for information products, direct support for actions and activity in third countries.

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