NewsWorldFive surprising things to know about the euro

Five surprising things to know about the euro


The illuminated European Central Bank tower on December 30, 2021 in Frankfurt, Germany (AFP / Daniel ROLAND)

Do the two-cent coins have a future? Why go on a pilgrimage with tickets to Spijkenisse? Can we still exchange Estonian crowns? Here are some little-known aspects of the euro, which is celebrating its twentieth anniversary.

– Stubborn national currencies

We find them under a mattress, in a grandmother’s piece of furniture, while renovating an apartment: all the national currencies that preceded the euro are far from having vanished.

In Berlin and the neighboring region of Brandenburg alone, some 2.63 million German marks were exchanged between January and the end of November of this year, or about 1.35 million euros.

The Bundesbank assumes that nationwide there are still cash holdings of around 12.35 billion Deutschmarks (6.31 billion euros).

Some are kept by collectors, others are certainly found abroad, the mark having long been a popular reserve currency.

There is no limit to the exchange of coins and banknotes from the former national currency into euros, just like Austria, Ireland or the three Baltic countries.

Italy since 2011, France and Greece since 2012 no longer use the old currency.

– The “500” on the verge of extinction

Many Europeans have never seen the color – purple: since 2019, the production of 500 euro banknotes has ceased by decision of the European Central Bank. In addition to being little used on a daily basis, this note was suspected of facilitating illegal transactions.

Paying with a 500 euro banknote issued between 2002 and 2019 is however still authorized and as of November there were still some 376 million purple denominations in circulation.

Does a comparable fate await the one and two cent coins? The question of stopping the production of the smallest currencies in the euro zone regularly returns to the agenda.

A 20 euro banknote held by a counterfeiting expert on December 22, 2021 in Frankfurt (AFP / ANDRE PAIN)

A 20 euro banknote held by a counterfeiting expert on December 22, 2021 in Frankfurt (AFP / ANDRE PAIN)

Bulky for some, these parts are also expensive to produce.

Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, Finland and Italy have already opted for the gradual elimination of coins, asking traders to round up their additions.

– (Very) new kid

It has the size, the color, the design of an ECB banknote: the zero euro banknote appeared in 2015 and has carved out a great popularity … among collectors.

The French entrepreneur Richard Faille had the idea of ​​creating tickets initially sold as souvenirs to tourists: on one side, they are illustrated with a site or a monument (Eiffel Tower, Mont Saint-Michel, etc. ..), on the other side a zero followed by the euro sign reminds that they have no value.

Dubbed by the ECB, these banknotes are printed with the same technical characteristics as the euros: watermark, security thread, inks, holograms or even individual security numbers, the resemblance is striking, but the paper used differs from that of the real banknotes.

– From virtual to real

To avoid annoyance, imaginary architectures rather than existing monuments illustrate the euro denominations.

Since the drawn bridges do not exist, a graphic designer, the Dutch Robin Stam, decided to build them. The municipality of Spijkenisse, near Rotterdam, gave it the green light.

From the 5 note to the 500 note, the seven “euro bridges” now attract tourists to this town of some 70,000 inhabitants.

– Paperwork for bundles

In Europe the transport of 10,000 euros or more in cash, coming or going abroad, must be declared to customs.

In a modern version of the “wool sock”, a man traveling from France to Spain was intercepted in April by the Perthus customs officers, who found 388,460 euros hidden in 25 socks while checking his van registered in Germany.

The bundles declared during their transit are much larger on average. German customs thus recorded in 2020 13,335 declarations for a total sum of 31 billion euros, an average of 2.3 million euros per declaration.

smk-jpl / ylf / cn



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