A brief history of the euro
The euro has been part of the financial landscape since 1 January 1999; it has been in our pockets since 1 January 2002. The creation of the single European currency took decades of preparation.
Everything began with the Treaty of Rome, signed in 1957, which set the objective for Europe of creating a "common market" to increase economic prosperity and contribute towards "an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe". However, the treaty makes no mention of economic and monetary union and the single currency.
It is not until the Werner Report (end of 1970), that the European Community considers a monetary union. The monetary turbulence of those days and the end of the Bretton Woods agreements prevent the project from being carried out.
The European Community adopts the project of a single European market.
It soon becomes apparent that this will be supplemented by a single currency.
The Delors Report on Economic and Monetary Union proposes a three-stage plan culminating in the creation of a single currency and a European central bank. It triggers renewed discussion on the Treaty of Rome.
The Maastricht Treaty transforms the European Community into a full Economic and Monetary Union. The participants adopt a range of macroeconomic criteria which must be respected in order to qualify for membership of the Monetary Union.
The Maastricht criteria
The formal undertakings given by the 15 Member States in favour of a single currency, accompanied by a timetable, are adopted at the Madrid European Summit
on the basis of the Green Paper drawn up by the European Commission on the practical arrangements for the transition.
The Stability and Growth Pact is adopted by all the member countries at the Amsterdam European Council. For the countries joining the euro, it lays down certain common constraints relating to public finance, mainly a 3% ceiling on the budget deficit, and provides for financial sanctions. These constraints are necessary in an asymmetrical system in which the countries of the euro area have a single monetary policy while retaining their national fiscal policy.
Stage 3 of Economic and Monetary Union begins on 1 January. The exchange rates of the participating currencies are irrevocably fixed. The countries of the euro area implement a single monetary policy. The euro is introduced as legal tender.
Until 2001 the euro exists only in the form of cashless payments (cheques, transfers, bank cards). Payments to tax and social security authorities can be made in francs or in euros: there is no prohibition and no compulsion regarding the use of the single currency.
Greece adopts the euro in January 2001.
On 1 January the euro notes and coins are introduced and withdrawal of the Belgian franc begins. In Belgium, the period of dual circulation of the euro and the national currency ends on 28 February 2002.
In May ten new countries join the European Union, thus committing themselves to adopt the euro in due course as currency.
On 1 January, Bulgaria and Romania join the European Union, thus committing themselves to adopt the euro in due course as currency. Slovenia joins the euro area.
Following the entry of Cyprus and Malta into the euro area on 1 January, 2008, the euro area consists of fifteen Member States having adopted the single currency.
On 1 January 2009, Slovakia joins the euro area.
Estonia becomes the 17th Member State to join the euro area on 1 January 2011.
On 1 January 2014, Latvia becomes the 18th Member State to adopt the euro.
The last country to adopt the euro is Lithuania, on 1 January 2015.