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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 00:14 GMT
Frankfurt snaps up euro kits
Euro coins
The euro becomes legal tender on 1 January
Patrick Bartlett

Euro coins have gone on sale in Germany, accompanied by celebrations in several major cities.

In Frankfurt - home to the European Central Bank - people queued in the bitter cold to buy the first so-called euro starter kits.

A gong shaped like a euro was struck at midnight outside the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and a dozen Santa Clauses joined in the party.

A giant euro sign at the European Central Bank in Frankfurt
Germans are expected to buy up to 100 million euro starter kits
But an opinion poll on Sunday found that only one in three Germans thought the euro would benefit them, confirming that many are still deeply ambivalent about the currency.

Brushing aside such doubts, the former Chancellor Helmut Kohl - one of the architects of the euro - said the process of European integration was now irreversible.

In a newspaper interview, he hailed the euro as a precondition for peace and freedom in the 21st Century.

Information campaign

Despite their mixed feelings, Germans are expected to buy up to 100 million euro starter kits of 20 coins worth just over 10 euros.

The coins, which are not legal tender until 1 January, are part of an intensifying information campaign to get euro-zone citizens used to the new currency.

For security reasons euro bank notes will not be issued until New Year's Day.

The BBC's Rebecca Jones
"A new year, a new currency"
The BBC's Patrick Bartlett
"Half of Germany would rather keep the Deutchsmark"
See also:

14 Dec 01 | Europe
Support rises for EU constitution
16 Dec 01 | Business
Euro launch boon for US tourists
14 Dec 01 | Business
Consumers get first feel for euro
14 Dec 01 | Business
Brewer bets on euro boost
14 Dec 01 | Business
Paris rush for euro-starter kits
14 Dec 01 | Europe
First Euro coins go on sale
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