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Monday, 10 September, 2001, 18:11 GMT 19:11 UK
Are you ready for the euro?
The European Central Bank begins its campaign on Thursday to persuade the 300 million citizens of the eurozone to recognise - and love - their new currency.
With just four months to go before the euro becomes legal tender in the 12 European countries that have adopted it, armoured vans will begin distributing the more than 50bn coins and 15bn notes that will be needed by shops on 1 January 2002.
But the economics and logistics of the changeover - the largest ever attempted - are formidable.
There are fears that shortages of the new currency may develop in the first weeks, and that consumers, sales staff and many business owners will have trouble coping with the euro conversion.
Are you ready for the euro?
Europe Today's Johannes Dell brought together the European Commission spokesman Gerassimos Thomas, and Dominique Forrest of the European Consumers' Organisation:
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Ali Bushell, UK
Only people with vision can appreciate the foregone change. The euro is good for Europe's health. Those who are nostalgic to lost dreams will soon be convinced of that. Keep on moving Europe, good job.
The German raiders who left
euros untouched did so for an obvious
reason - the inability to do anything
with them, since the currency is not
yet in use. Only the British press
would suggest that it was because
they "share the suspicion of the euro".
This school playground attitude on
the part of the Brits is not limited
to the euro, but applies to anything
which the Brits don't join and even those
things they do join, but don't like the
rules. It's rather pathetic really.
I put it down to P.I.D (post imperial
In short, we don't currently have democratic control over monetary policy anyway. Joining the euro does not mean we give up the power to set fiscal policy, or any other aspect of Government.
Euro-sceptics, please find a new tune - you may have to do some research first though. The tabloids ain't gonna provide the necessary information, I can tell you that.
Reading people's comments, it seems that the only benefit the euro has to offer is that you won't have to change currency when visiting Europe. How pathetic. One of the joys of travelling is using
other currency. There are also numerous comments containing the words "xenophobic" and statements referring to the "Empire". Rubbish. The only reason some people don't want a single currency is to keep some identity. If this makes me xenophobic, what does it make the others who want the euro. Sheep?
When an economic shock hits a part of the US, such as Texas, how are things repaired? There are two economic stabilisers: Texans move to the jobs; and federal tax money moves to Texas. These don't work as well in Europe. Language barriers prevent the people moving. And political barriers prevent the money moving: US federal tax transfers between states are three times as large as European transfers. Are the British public really willing to have (more than) three times as much of their taxes sent to help Greek and Spanish olive farmers? I doubt it.
Pre-EMU Europe had one stabiliser, FX rates. In 1992 the UK economy was in trouble. The pound devalued, exporters increased volumes and profits, and led the country out of recession.
The Eurozone thus has no stabilisers (or only tiny ones). That is very bad. Parts of the zone will enter long-lasting recessions, from which there is no realistic escape.
The majority of pro-Euro postings appear to treat the Euro merely as a single currency. It is not. What it means is economic integration, a single European economic policy which will inevitably lead to all our taxes being set, collected and distributed by the EU rather than by our democratically elected Government. Already the idea of an EU income tax has been seriously suggested and don't forget that entry into the Euro would require massive cuts in public spending. It's part of the entry conditions and the EU have already criticised UK public spending as being too high. It would mean large cutbacks for schools and the health service when what they need is more money to compensate for decades of neglect.
As Peter Hain said in 1995, before the Blairites got him on message, "The policy.. of a European Central Bank independent of democratic control and dedicated almost exclusively to price stability must be reversed. It is economically disastrous and politically dangerous --- why should monetary policy be taken out of democratic control and left to bankers?"
I'm sorry for those who have trouble converting foreign currencies (buy a calculator) but there are wider and far more important issues to consider.
I am British and have studied and worked in five European countries over the last 30 years. The euro cannot come soon enough as far as I am concerned. I do understand that many people who only ever leave Britain for an annual summer holiday on the continent cannot comprehend what it is like to have four or five currencies in your pocket all the time if you travel around a bit. As for the specifics: the ECB would almost certainly have been based in London had we not decided to demand our famous opt-out from joining with the first group of countries. Britain was at top table during the planning of the Euro and then said: "Sorry, but not just yet".
If I were an international investor, I would ask myself why Britain helped create a currency it doesn't actually want itself. As a result, the Bank is now in Frankfurt, though in excellent German hands. As for the comments about it being unelected and undemocratic: no central bank is elected, and the Bank of England has only recently become independent of government! Why haven't Britons been shouting about that! I've no doubt Britain will join in a few years time, lagging behind with slugged shoulders in time-honoured fashion, and then try to claim the credit for creating the currency in the first place.
Although I believe strongly in democracy and the right of the people to govern themselves, I don't know whether I could make an informed, wise decision about the euro: I am not a trained economist, and it could be dangerous to put such a decision (albeit that I have only one vote) in my amateur's hands! Until we are told more (without the spin of Labour or the populist little-England ranting of the Tories) about the Euro, we shouldn't make a decision on it, or even think about doing so.
If Europe is to stay together then the euro is needed. Having been born and raised in Greece I do feel sorry for the drachma but progress is progress. So Europe for once get your act together and go for it. The benefits will clearly outnumber the shortcomings. Good luck Europe and make the Euro-sceptics eat some dust.
One major advantage of joining the euro would be that it would open up an EU-wide e-commerce market. The real potential of online shopping could then be exploited, meaning more competition, lower prices already available elsewhere in Europe, and access to a mammoth range of products not available in the UK! It's time to move on, and embrace the currency of the future.
The pound sterling is one of the strongest currencies in the world - even stronger than the US dollar. Why give that up to join a currency which has had a shaky and unsure beginning? Great Britain, stay with the pound sterling until you know for sure the euro is safe to dive into. Plus, the pound sterling has been around forever! The UK without the pound is like London without Big Ben - unimaginable! Plus, the £ sign is so much neater looking and easier to write than the ¿ sign!
What is needed urgently is less rhetoric from both sides and more factual, reasoned debate to inform the nation. I would hate to think that all most people know of the euro is what they have read in an editorial in a tabloid!
For whose benefit is the euro? Us (the people) or business? Would we need a single currency if we weren't so hell bent on making more money than the next person!
Is Jeff, USA claiming that the wealthier countries are going to suffer because poorer ones will be part of the EuroZone? Does this mean he would advocate therefore that every state in the US issue its own currency, so that wealthy California does not have to "prop up" West Virginia? He lives in a country with a single market and therefore a single currency makes common sense. Europe may not ever be as politically united as the USA but economically it is a single market, therefore what sense is there in having fifteen different currencies operating in such an environment.
Personally, I can't wait for the full introduction of the euro in January. Yes, there will be some initial confusion, and if there are price hikes, then its up to consumers and the relevant state bodies to be alert and where necessary "name and shame" such traders. The benefits of being able to trade and travel through 12 countries with one currency will become obvious to all within months. Roll on the euro.
I am now ready for the euro. I was critical before, but now I see that our joining is not only inevitable but essential for the survival of an affluent UK. The euro will have a profound positive effect in Europe. Just imagine everyone having and trading in the same currency. We need to enter it as soon as it is beneficial for us to do so (next year when UK's trends are perfectly in line with Europe's). Blair and Clarke must start immediately educating the electorate of its advantages.
Come on Brits stop the needless xenophobic emotion and ditch that small island mentality. Accept the facts we live in a global society and the UK is too small to stand on its own - it needs big strategic partners. These lie 31 miles away over the Channel in Europe. I have seen the light and changed my opinion, it is time for the rest of the UK to do so for the sake our country's future.
The changeover will not be simple, but we'll get there. We'll show to the world, and to ourselves, that we can set ambitious goals for our society and achieve them.
We tend to think of Europe as a laggard
and a backwater. The euro, Schengen, the
EU constitutional debate all show that we
are a vibrant society, with vision and ambition,
and with the capability to turn them into reality.
We are not afraid of trying new, unconventional
ways and solutions. And it works.
It's challenging and exciting. I like it!
The one issue not addressed at all in the postings below is the only economic one that counts: what will be the rate at which the UK would enter the euro? If it is the current rate then manufacturers will be permanently locked into an uncompetitive exchange rate. If the rate is lower then we will be permanently locked into paying higher prices for imports e.g. oil and aircraft; foodstuffs from Africa and the Middle East, from outside the EC.
The euro is worth more than the Drachma which I use today, but I think we all should stick with our own currency. The Drachma is ancient currency and all that history could be forgotten...
The Euro is only temporary anyway - by the end of the century we'll be using the World Dollar.
If the euro is promoted mainly on the grounds that it will make it easier to
take your money on holiday, I will definitely vote against it. The hassle of
changing your currency (which most UK citizens will not be doing more than
once a year) is a trivial issue compared to the economic considerations (of
which the benefits are still hypothetical) and possible constitutional issues
(which the EU is refusing to consider at all).
James Denning, UK
When the Euro was launched I took delight in seeing it devalue, and hated the idea of ever becoming part of it. However through personal research, as public debate seems to be somewhat lacking, I have changed and now look on with hope to the day we join and accept our place in Europe. We may have one of the oldest currencies in the world but sometimes a change can be good. My only reservation is the ECB being in Frankfurt. If we had joined from the start it could have come to its rightful home here in London.
I work in an airport in the UK and find it frustrating every morning at 5am having to program the till with today's exchange rates for the major currencies...roll on the euro it will make my working life and my love of travelling easier. We've only had the current pound and pence system since the 1970's anyway.. its not the currency that makes us English, Scottish, Welsh our national heritage and culture is much more deeply rooted than the queens head on a note or coin.
The British people are clearly confused on this matter, we vote Labour knowing that their policies are geared towards the euro. And when the time comes to move into it, we resign ourselves to the usual Tory antics of "we'll see how it goes". I say chance it. We voted Labour in. Let them see it through.
I am not ready for the euro as the entire project is based on the European Central Bank, therefore it has sole rights to alter interest rates. All those countries that have signed up to the single currency will be in for a nasty shock when they discover that they have lost control of their entire economies. Correspondents who favour the euro should be vary wary of what lies ahead.
The UK should be right in there with the rest of Europe and sign up to the euro. As usual we will sit on the sidelines bleating about European integration and only get involved at a later date when the euro has been proved a great success. The sooner people realise our future lies within Europe and not as some great power with an empire the better.
I work for a global company who are having to close factories and make people redundant right across the UK. This is not simply because of the recession, but also because we cannot compete with our competitors in the euro zone. I say for the preservation of our jobs and industry - we should join as soon as possible!
To join the euro is to lose control of
our exchange rates and therefore
control over our own economy.
The economic advantages of joining
are debatable. The disadvantages
are even more dilution of democracy
and personal freedom because of the
reduced importance of our own
government after joining the euro,
there is more to life than economics.
This is not a "nationalist" point, its
simply not "fixing what isn't broke".
The fact that the euro is so slavishly promoted by Messrs. Heath, Heseltine and Clarke is enough to convince me that it's a complete waste of time, money and effort. The notes are ugly and boring, but that's probably beside the point.
There is nothing to stop businesses opening "euro accounts" now, so let's not hear any more rubbish from Peter Hain about the "inevitability" of us joining.
We do not need to get rid of sterling to be able to use euros and it is an entirely political act of subjugation to Brussels that is driving the campaign to scrap the pound. Blair wants to impress his Little European friends by handing over the power to set interest rates to the ECB and doesn't give a fig about the boost to federalism that this will prove.
Don't believe all the stories in the UK anti-euro biased media, Speaking as a seasoned European, the euro cannot come soon enough. It's time Britain came out of the 19th Century into the 21st!
Popped into my local (Brussels) bar last night to discover that their cash-register had been updated for Euro. Net result, the price of my local tipple has just gone up 11% - and the benefits are???
Prices have not gone up 20% overnight in Finland. However it is true that the effects of 'rounding up' rather than 'rounding down' will increase prices both here and all over the Euro area and that, in turn, might just set off some unexpected inflationary effects.
Robert Cherry, France
Richard P asks how long before the major tourist centres and shopping chains start accepting the single currency. He does not have to wait too long - only until 1 January. Then any British shopper returning from the continent will be able to use the euro in stores such as Marks and Spencer, WH Smith, Selfridges and Harrods, to name but a few. British consumers will not have to change the currency into pounds to shop in these stores. Just think of all the other benefits that we would gain if we were actually to join the single currency.
Finnish markka as a small currency has not been very stable in the past. Late 80's it was very strong and at the beginning of 90's lost a lot of its value. If you compare Finland and Sweden, Swedish crown is losing its value against Euro and even more to sterling and dollar. Yes I think it is much better for Finland to be part of EMU and enjoy benefits of reasonable stable currency.
Having just come back from travelling through four EU countries to find that my internet-only bank statements can't show either the currency or exchange rate used for the foreign transactions I made, I'd say this indicates that my bank have already prepared for the Euro, as such conversions will not be necessary when we do go in. And a good thing it will be too; the ability to make instant comparisons between prices and wages in each country will scare the wits out of those who are exploiting us in the UK but will a Godsend to the rest of us.
Claudio Mattia, Italy
We think there has not been enough debate here. This Government, and the previous one, have, for their own reasons, ignored/discouraged any in-depth debate, depriving most of us of the means to make a really informed decision. The tabloids in particular seem to be in the business of making very negative comments. Meanwhile there is little intervention from the present Government - except for the "neutral" remark that there will be a referendum. By the time this happens the GBP will not have heard much more about the pros and cons of the single currency than they have heard to date!
There are three reasons why I, personally, am not ready for the euro - The first being that I feel no cultural or historical connection to it. Maybe this is a small point and can be overlooked, though. The second being the euro's terrible performance since it was conceived, but I'm sure this will be solved in due course. The third reason why I'm not ready for the euro, is the undemocratic, unaccountable institution behind it - This, I don't think will be fixed any time soon.
The euro will not be effective. Not only will be an unstable currency, but countries will discover that they don't like not having control over their money supply. It will become obvious in a short time that the euro will impoverish wealthy countries such as Germany and not help poorer countries such as Greece. As for Britain, it should stick with the Pound Sterling, a trusted and prestigious currency.
Matthew Smith, UK
Since when did our currency determine who controls the economy?
ECB or Bank or England, big business will still be in the driving seat.
How terribly sad that, once again, the forces of reaction and mindless tradition have prevented us from taking part in the most exciting and progressive act of unification since the end of the second world war. We will, in the end, join the euro, but at a far greater disadvantage than if we had embraced the idea wholeheartedly in the beginning
I'm English. Lived in France for many years.
France is reported to be at the forefront of "euro-awareness".
Living here, the Euro still seems like something extraterrestrial.
Gaz, it's fine saying "nationalism is the last bastion of the scoundrel" - no one disagrees with you there - but is it really worth giving up control of our own economy just for that? I'm not prepared for the euro. A money supply and interest rate that is right for Europe may not be right for the UK. Remember September 1992?
Janet Heath, UK
I work for a Dutch Company in Italy (with business trips to Holland). Two years ago, I was working in Germany
and had business trips to Holland, Spain and Belgium.
Also, two years ago, I drove from Germany to Ireland (via Belgium, France and Britain).
For all this count 8 currencies today. In five months it will be two (Euro and Pound).
The euro is helping to restore prosperity in the far north of England after the economic crisis of foot and mouth and the too-strong pound. The euro gives Britons the opportunity to share in the success of the economies of France, for example, where the CAC40 is outstripping the performance of the FTSE100. In the first English-speaking country to adopt the euro, too, the economy is in overdrive.
Charlie Mansfield, UK
I have recently returned from living in Germany they seem just as sceptical of the euro as we are. Both nations have very good reason to be weary of joining the single currency as it appears we have more to lose than we do to gain. It's all very well for countries such as Italy who's economy is in a weak position, they have everything to gain from it and nothing to lose!
It remains up to the individual to refuse increases in prices but that only means that collectively no decision can be made. Vote with your wallet
As most people will have never seen the currency before, how will shopkeepers know they are fakes or not... Counterfeiters stand to make a MINT!
As I hate flying, I travel to the Netherlands via Eurostar. With the Euro, I'll be able to buy a coffee at Brussel Zuid station and not have to wait until I board the NS train.
How long before the major UK tourist centres and shopping chains start accepting euros? It's inconceivable that Oxford St shops won't accept the euro next year, and once it's established in London and the other major tourist centres, public resistance is bound to decay, whatever the politics may be.
Can't wait. Roll on 1st January 2002.
Thomas Byrne, Ireland
Good luck to the new currency and all its users and can we please adopt it in this country within 2 years.
The only way I can currently cope with travelling around Europe is by having 5 wallets each with different currencies. I've been thoroughly looking forward to this for a long time. It's going to be so much more convenient. My only gripe is with note designs, they're the most unimaginative things I've ever seen.
I work in Germany, my home is in the UK. I get paid in euros, my biggest expenses are in sterling and my other expenses are in D Marks. Every time I change from one to the other someone takes a cut for making the deal. Roll on the euro, it can't come soon enough....
Yes, after having to take five different currencies just to keep myself fed whilst travelling to a country in south Europe, I can see the benefits of a single currency.
People are using cash less and less, perhaps not at all in a few years time. Who cares what type of numbers show up on your credit card bill?
Anything that breaks down artificial barriers is a good thing - "nationalism is the last bastion of
30 Aug 01 | Business
Countdown to euro cash
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