The euro turns 25
On 1 January 1999 the euro was introduced as book money, which is money that was used only for accounting purposes. Three years later, people in Germany and eleven other European countries got their hands on euro banknotes and coins for the first time. Euro cash was thus born. Today, twenty-five years later, the euro is legal tender in twenty countries and has become an indispensable part of Europeans’ everyday lives.
But the euro is more than just a currency. In a world confronted with increasing divisions, authoritarian forces and political unrest, the euro stands not only for stability but also for a commitment to common European values. It is a symbol of peace and prosperity that defines Europe. Euro banknotes and coins are a tangible, everyday reminder of the freedom and unlimited possibilities afforded by the European Union. Thanks to the euro, many things have become easier. We can pay in the same currency throughout the euro area and compare prices across countries. Travel has also become easier, as exchanging money has become a thing of the past.
The value of unity
25 years, 20 countries, 1 currency: the euro now unites people from 20 countries. Regardless of their mother tongue, the euro provides them with a common language for talking about the value of things. It is the currency for almost 350 million people and a symbol of Europe – a binding force that promotes economic and political unity throughout the continent. The euro also plays an important role in bringing countries closer together, promoting economic prosperity as an important pillar of the single market and strengthening Europe’s resilience and sovereignty, including on the global stage.
Symbol of stability and trust
Trust in a currency is an essential prerequisite for economic stability and growth, as it gives people the confidence they need to save, invest and plan for the future. In its 25-year history, the euro has gained the trust and support of citizens on a sustained basis. The European Central Bank is responsible for ensuring the availability of the euro as a means of payment for everyone in the euro area. The ECB’s objective is to ensure that the money it issues retains its value over time.
A currency that is fit for the future
The euro is a currency that evolves with the decisions and financial needs of Europeans. It will always be available the way people want it, whether as cash or in digital form, and even potentially as a digital euro. The ECB is currently looking into the introduction of a digital euro in line with planned EU legislation. A digital euro would give Europeans more choice in terms of payment options, as it would provide them with an additional secure means of payment – alongside cash – that is accepted throughout the euro area and guaranteed by a European institution. Introducing a digital euro would ensure that the euro remains competitive and that its international role and the European payment landscape are strengthened.
Banknotes soon to be given new design
However, for certain population groups who may not have access to digital means of payment, such as the elderly or people in rural areas, banknotes remain essential. The European institutions have therefore committed to ensuring the availability of banknotes and to protecting euro cash as a means of payment. The ECB is planning to give euro banknotes a new look to bring them closer to the hearts of Europeans. In addition, the cash strategy of the ECB and the euro area national central banks aims to ensure that cash remains widely available and accepted as a means of payment and as a store of value.