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EDITIONS
Thursday, 3 January, 2002, 15:17 GMT
Euro cash launch 'tremendous success'
Genuine 50 euro notes
Consumers get used to the real thing - but the first fake 50 euro note has turned up in Germany
The launch of euro notes and coins has been a "tremendous success" the president of the European Central Bank has said.


I am convinced that 1 January 2002 will appear in the history books... as the start of a new era in Europe

Wim Duisenberg, ECB president
Speaking at a news conference on the roll-out of the euro cash, ECB President Wim Duisenberg praised businesses and consumers for helping make the switch go so smoothly.

"It is because Europeans have seized the opportunity to play an active part in this changeover that we can already pronounce this unprecedented move a tremendous success," he said.

But the comments came amid reports of the first discoveries of forged euro cash, including a fake 500 euro note used to obtain almost 1,000 Deutschmarks ($450; 319).

Burger test

Mr Duisenberg hailed the introduction of euro notes and coins as a historical moment.

"On 1 January at zero hour, the introduction of euro bank notes and coins marked not only the completion of economic and monetary union... but one of the major, if not the major, step forward in the history of European integration.


When I bought a Big Mac and a strawberry milkshake this week it cost 4.45 euros... exactly the same... as I paid for the same meal last week

Wim Duisenberg

"I am convinced that 1 January 2002 will appear in the history books in all our countries and beyond as the start of a new era in Europe."

Mr Duisenberg said he did not think the new currency was leading to higher prices, citing his own experiences.

"When I bought a Big Mac and a strawberry milkshake this week it cost 4.45 euros, which is exactly the same amount as I paid for the same meal last week."

First forgery found

His comments came hours after German police revealed that a 12-year old girl had handed in a fake 50 euro note found on a train travelling from Cologne to Troisdorf.

"She noticed it was a forgery because it did not have any of the security features," a police spokesman said.


It was printed on both sides which is better than some forgeries you get

Police spokesman

While the forgery was "apparently... not very good", it was "printed on both sides, which is better than some forgeries you get", a spokesman said.

Later, German police revealed that a fraudster used a fake 500 euro note made from photos cut from a euro information leaflet to obtain almost 1,000DM in coins in a casino.

The ECB has conducted a publicity campaign to make the public aware of the euro notes' security features, and concerns have been voiced over the risk of forgery, especially involving the high-value 500 euro note.

Consumer groups have warned people to watch out for counterfeit money, particularly in the early days of the euro's life as a cash currency, when citizens are unfamiliar with its looks and feel.

Promising start

The relative absence of hitches in the changeover has boosted the euro's value on the foreign exchanges.

Euro/Dollar graph

On Wednesday, the currency enjoyed big rises against the dollar, pound and the yen - recovering ground it lost in the run up to 1 January.

Despite falling back slightly, the euro held on to most of its gains in Thursday trade.

By 1500 GMT the euro stood at $0.9003, having hit a two-week high of $0.9066 on Wednesday.

Click here to see a graph of the euro against the dollar since 1999.

Sterling remained weak against the euro, trading at 62.32p per euro, after falling more than 2% on Wednesday.

But analysts warned against reading too much into the recent movements.

Cash machines dispensing euros
Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands 100%
Spain 97%
France 95%
Finland 92%
Portugal 90%
Italy 85%
Source: ECB

"The implementation of euro hard cash was highly successful and the pricing out of the risk premium on the changeover was behind the move," said Stacey Seltzer, currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman.

"Now we are back to basics. It is hard to get too enthusiastic about the euro because the eurozone economy is still behind the US in terms of recovery."

Calm environment

The ECB's decision on Thursday to maintain the headline eurozone interest rate at 3.25% had been widely expected.

"They don't want to surprise markets in a situation where they want to create a calm environment for the introduction of euro notes and coins," said Michael Schubert, an economist at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

But while no action was taken on Thursday, some analysts believe the ECB could trim rates when it meets again next month.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Justin Webb in Brussels
"This is potentially very worrying"
Pedro Solbes, EU commissioner for monetary union
"A lot of things have still to be done"

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See also:

03 Jan 02 | Business
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