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Friday, 14 December, 2001, 12:23 GMT
Paris rush for euro-starter kits
Tobacconist Andree Bohelay, left, sells to an unidentified customer holding a 100 Francs
100 francs buys 40 coins totalling 15 euros and 25 cents
By the BBC's James Coomarasamy in Paris

The Euro has become a reality today for the citizens of three Eurozone countries.

Starter kits were available in Ireland, the Netherlands and France.

They will be available in the other nine Euro countries in the next few days as well.

At one minute past midnight a tobacconist shop on the Place de Clichy in Paris had the honour of selling the first pack of euros in France.

Since early morning business has been brisk in the tobacconists, banks and post offices, where the special starter kits are available.

A 100 francs buys you 40 coins but no notes, to the value of 15 euros and 25 cents.

You can see them and feel them, and although you cannot spend them until January the 1st, the euros are now a reality.

In my local post office the queue to buy the special packs was long, although the reaction to the coins themselves was mixed.

While most people said they were happy to finally have some euros in their hands, many were nervous about the practical effects of the new currency.

One shop keeper said she feared there would be chaos in the first few weeks of the new year, when francs and euros would both be accepted.

However, for politicians here this is an unequivocally positive moment.

The French Finance Minister Laurent Fabius said he was delighted at the rush to buy the euro kits, it showed he said that the French were euro impatient.

Mr Fabius described the run up to the euro's arrival as being like dancing without a partner and without music. Now he said, we can see the partner and hear the music.

The BBC's Brian Milligan
"Euro cash will inevitably spread outside the euro zone"
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