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Friday, 19 October, 2001, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
Euro cash: Ask Pedro Solbes
Pedro Solbes Mira answers your questions on the introduction of euro cash
Pedro Solbes is the man responsible for the mammoth task of introducing the euro notes and coins in 12 EU states on 1 January 2002.

He joined us for a live forum and answered a selection of your questions.

To watch coverage of the forum, select the link below:

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The European Commisioner for Economic Affairs has to ensure that the distribution of 50 billion coins and 15 billion notes goes smoothly. If it does, it will bind Europe together as never before.

But there is much that can go wrong, from robbery, forgery and money laundering, to hidden price rises and, potentially, inflation.

There is bound to be some confusion during the changeover period, as consumers in most countries handle two currencies - old and new - at once, and struggle mentally to convert prices from one to the other.

Are you unsure how the changeover will work? Are you concerned about possible price rises, or any other potential effects of the new currency? If you are a retailer or a businessperson do you need advice on how to prepare for E-Day?


Highlights of the interview:


Newshost:

Eric Rohloff, UK: How can the European Union ensure that the euro will stand the test of time and not be a complete and utter failure like the Latin Monetary Union?


Pedro Solbes:

The euro is already working since 1st January 1999. So it is already our currency - the currency of 12 member states of the union. What we are trying to do now is only to introduce notes and coins. So we have advanced already a lot and I am sure that it will be a success.


Newshost:

We have got two-and-a-half months - you have a lot of publicity which you are trying to launch and trying to educate people but obviously a lot of that is getting drowned out at the moment by all the coverage of the terrorism affair in America and elsewhere. Do you think you are getting your message across and that people are ready for this thing?


Pedro Solbes:

I hope so. We realise when we did our first campaign two years ago that citizens were not so open to the information because they considered that at that moment of application was too far away. Since the month of September we have realised that more and more European citizens are interested in what is happening with the euro and in spite of this avalanche of information that we are receiving about the American attack, people are interested in the introduction of euro.


Newshost:

I travel to France a lot and I have lots of friends there and of course there are adverts on television and you say there are adverts in the newspapers and the labels in shops are now split between euros and francs. But it is not really a topic of conversation - people aren't really concentrating on the euro - they have many other things on their plates before they talk about the euro.


Pedro Solbes:

I think we are talking more and more about the euro. It is true that in most European Monetary Union countries the prices are already established in euros. We are receiving our payments in euros. The current accounts in the banking system are already in euros. We still have to be more used to having an idea as to the price in euros of the different products but it will take much more time. It is necessary to have certain experience to know exactly what are the prices in euros.


Newshost:

Soenke Faltien, Bremen, Germany: I have heard that the euro coins will be different in every country. Does this not make the changeover even more confusing? And will my coins from Germany be accepted when I travel to other euro-zone countries?


Pedro Solbes:

Not at all. We have very clear national experiences in this sense. For example, in my national country the faces of the different coins can be very variable. What is relevant is the size and the weight of the different currencies and of course the existence of a national face. I am sure that within days people will be used to this system without any kind of problems.


Newshost:

Xavier Sanchez-Roemmele, Barcelona, Spain: Is there any legal way one can report a hidden price rise, masked by the Euro exchange. Does the EU plan imposing any measures to stop this from happening, or is it each country's responsibility?


Pedro Solbes:

As you know, the prices are freely established in a market economy. Accordingly, the system that we have introduced - the changeover - the exchange from the euro has to be absolutely neutral. What we are introducing is some instruments to try to control this possible advantage that some people could get with the introduction of the euro. We are insisting very much on the double pricing during a certain period of time on the necessary agreement which have been done between different governments. But of course good practice is necessary, which in some countries, Belgium is a good case - they have decided to introduce double pricing and rounding the final price not to upside but to the low side of the figure.


Newshost:

But if you have got a dodgy suspect shopkeeper on a corner who wants to put up his prices, how can somebody going into those shops stop that? Who can they directly report that to?


Pedro Solbes:

As I have said before, we do not expect that this will be done. But the dual pricing will give the consumer the possibility to buy in a different place. This is an operation which has to be done of course in co-operation with the citizens and of course with the public administration. The public administration establishes the principles and establishes the obligation of the double pricing and citizens have to control that prices are being applied in the same way that they did before. I think this is enough to try to avoid this kind of situation.


Newshost:

Britain's intelligence services are worried about the prospect of fraud and counterfeiting - how worried are you when these coins and notes start coming in it will be an open season for all these counterfeiters and forgers?


Pedro Solbes:

We have the most mobile and best technical coins and notes in the world. We have a lot of security features in these notes. The security features give information so people know exactly which are the correct notes. But at the same time we have established also some specific legislation to act against counterfeiting and we have established a system of information for the different police of the different member states to try to act against counterfeiting. We do not expect counterfeiting in Europe being of more a concern than all the big currencies in the world. On the contrary we expect that counterfeiting will be much more difficult.

See also:

30 Aug 01 | Business
EU commission worries over euro
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