10th Euro anniversary will see Slovakia joining the EU16

In less that two weeks the euro area will have two reasons to celebrate: the number of European Union countries sharing the same currency will grow to 16 with Slovakia, and we will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the euro. A special €2 coin has been issued to commemorate the anniversary and a documentary film describing the road to the euro and its benefits was screened December, 18th. In the meantime, preparations are in full swing in Slovakia.

The euro was created in 1999 when 11 countries irrevocably locked the bilateral exchange rates of their currencies and equipped themselves with a single monetary and exchange rate policy. The European Central Bank was created six months earlier, and banknotes and coins were introduced in 2002.

Ten years later to that date, Slovakia will adopt the euro on the 1st of January, becoming the 16th EU country to do so. On New Year's Day 328.6 million people out of the EU's 499.7 million will share the euro. Slovakia, which met the converging criteria to join the euro early May this year, will adopt the euro at a rate of 30.1260 Slovak koruna to the common currency. Before it, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta also made the euro their money.

Commission President, Mr José Manuel Barroso, expressed his satisfaction for Slovakia joining the Euro and becoming the sixteenth member of the euro area on 1 January. He also highlighted the benefits of the Euro delivering lower inflation and lower interest rates than ever before, adding that “in the current time of crisis the euro is sheltering businesses from the exchange rate volatility which has battered them in previous downturns. To put it simply, the euro works. I am confident it will go from strength to strength in the next ten years and that we will welcome more members."

10 years of Euro

The euro has been a great success. Overall and notwithstanding the present challenging times, it has delivered greater price stability and lower interest rates than ever before for the countries, people and businesses that share it.

It helped create a record 16 million jobs and enabled Europe to enter into the current crisis with the lowest unemployment rate and the best budgetary position in a long time among other sound fundamentals. Of course, Economic and Monetary Union must be improved to make it even more successful in the next decade and beyond, as the EMU@10 Communication and Report of May 2008 shows.

“The euro has become the symbol of EU identity and is proving to be a solid and stabilising factor in currency markets both inside and outside the euro area”, as Joaquín Almunia, European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs stressed.

To celebrate the euro anniversary, euro area countries will issue from January 1st a total of 84 million €2 commemorative coins. The design of the special coin was selected through a popular web vote organised by the Commission.

A lively television documentary, which is available for download on the website of the Economic and Financial Affairs Directorate General, has also been commissioned on the origins and history of the euro.

Slovakia ready for Euro changeover

Preparations for the euro are now entering a final stage in Slovakia. Commercial banks started receiving the banknotes and coins in September and have been supplying them to shops and other businesses so that they can handle payments and return change in euro from the 1st of January.

Citizens snapped up more than 90% of the 1,200,000 euro coin mini kits within only five days and, thanks to an information campaign that was speeded up in the last six months and includes TV spots and a touring information bus, feel well informed. Their concerns about price increases were taken seriously by the Slovak authorities that put in place a number of measures, including an Ethical Code signed by business whereby they undertake to respect the changeover rules. The display of prices in both euro and koruna is compulsory since 24 August and until 1 January 2010. The respect of the changeover rules is carefully monitored by the Slovak Trade Inspection, which has visited more than 15,000 shops and service providers since August. The inspectors corrected shortcomings in dual display of prices when found and checked on price movements in the sectors where problems were experienced in the previous changeovers in other countries (restaurants, hairdressers, cafes etc.). The Association of Slovak Consumers also plays a key role in checking price developments. The Commission has actively supported the communication campaign under a Partnership agreement of December 2007.

Businesses and public administrations have also prepared themselves well in advance and their personnel have been trained (especially for those in direct contact with the public). According to a survey by the Slovak Ministry of Finance carried mid-November, virtually all central and local administrations should have their IT systems converted and tested by 23 December.

To facilitate the changeover, the National Bank of Slovakia and commercial banks will be exceptionally open on 1 January as well as on the weekend of 3-4 January.