ECB rolls out euro notes, hoping security features will foil counterfeiters
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) – Europeans on Thursday got a first look at their new currency – seven colorful notes with hidden holograms and other security elements that are said to make them the most counterfeit-proof in the world. Planners promise the euro will help unite the continent like never before.
The European Central Bank, which governs monetary policy for the 12 nations, has kept the euro notes under wraps to give counterfeiters as little time as possible to unravel security features. The state-of-the-art bills start circulating Jan. 1.
Bank President Wim Duisenberg was lit up by a blaze of flashes from jostling photographers as he held up a transparent star encasing the new bills in denomination’s of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros. A euro is currently worth about 91 cents.
”The euro is much more than a common currency,” Duisenberg said. ”It is a symbol of European integration.”
Outside the Frankfurt, Germany opera house, where the bills were introduced, workers dangling from ropes peeled away large plastic sheets to reveal two story-high copies of the notes hanging from the bank’s headquarters.
The introduction of the euro bills as money people can touch and feel will be a historic step in bringing Europeans closer together, Duisenberg said. Starter kits of coins are introduced in most countries in December.
”In some 100 days’ time, the euro will be in our pockets, it will be our money, a tangible reality and not just the virtual market currency which it has thus far been perceived to be by many Europeans,” Duisenberg said.
The euro has existed since Jan. 1, 1999 when national currencies were pegged to it, but 300 million people in the euro bloc have continued to use their old national currencies as cash. After the New Year changeover, national currencies will still be accepted as legal tender during transitional periods ranging from two to six months.
The bank’s primary job now is creating a sense of confidence in the new currency. After the bank earlier Thursday helped the euro gain against the dollar with an interest rate cut, officials turned the focus on security.
The new bills incorporate measures tried and tested on outgoing national currencies – such as raised printing so people can identify the real thing from fakes by touch – with features unique to the new bills.
Some of those features were purposely kept secret.
”There are always more security features than you explain to the public,” for security reasons, said Regina Schueller, a bank spokeswoman.
The bills feature watermarks and security threads – a dark line that becomes visible when the bill is held up to light. Tilting brings out holograms printed on a foil stripe at the edge of the smaller bills. Another stripe near the center can only be seen under very bright light.
The bigger bills – the 50, 100, 200 and 500 – have a foil patch with a hologram of the bank note and its value. They also have ink on the numerals that changes color as bills are moved in the light.
Other features – different sizes for the bills, large, easy to read numbers – were added simply to make life easier for people, especially the blind or those with impaired vision.
The launch on Thursday focused on notes, because they are the responsibility of the ECB and the countries’ central banks. The coins were decided by the countries themselves, and each member state has a different set with its own symbols, sovereigns or heroes.
The launch kicked off the final stage of an information campaign meant to boost acceptance of the new money. TV commercials and newspaper ads will teach people about the new currency in the 11 languages used in the euro zone, and in 23 other languages in a campaign outside the zone.
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