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The Euro Banknotes
1 January 2002 will be remembered as a milestone in the history of Europe. This was the day when the euro banknotes and coins were successfully introduced in the euro area, marking the final step towards Economic and Monetary Union. But this was not just an administrative achievement. By using the euro banknotes every day. we are discovering European integration for ourselves. And so 305 million Europeans in 12 countries have fully embraced the most tangible symbol of our shared identity: the euro banknotes.
But banknotes are not only a means of payment, they are also pieces of craftsmanship. reflecting the soul of the nations issuing them. Our bank notes represent values to which all Europeans are deeply attached, in particular openness and co-operation between our countries and between Europe and the rest of the world. These shared ideals are a key feature of the euro banknote designs.
Transferring a series of seven banknotes from the „drawing board“ to people‘s wallets required many years of careful planning. In February 1996 the Council of the European Monetary Institute (EMI), the forerunner of the European Central Bank (ECB). launched a euro banknote design competition. On 13 December 1996 I had the privilege, together with Baron Alexandre Lamfalussy, President of the EMI, of unveiling the winning design series to the public. These of course became the banknotes we now use every day.
The competition participants had to base their designs on the theme „Ages and styles of Europe“ and/or use an abstract or modern design. A total of 44 entries were submitted by 29 designers or teams of designers. The designs have now been reproduced for an exhibition held at the ECB and other venues throughout Europe. It gives me great pleasure to invite you, the citizens of Europe. to share this view of history In the making.