Three hundred million Europeans wake this morning to a new year and an extraordinary new reality that constitutes the boldest experiment ever attempted to bind people together by the money they use. Heralded from the Arctic Circle to the Cote d’Azur by fireworks, champagne and the strains of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, E-day dawns after years of meticulous planning for the biggest ever currency change and decades of bitter debate still unresolved in Britain – about how far the continent’s nations should integrate.
“Meticulous”? Yes and no, I’d say.
“The euro is your money, it is our money. It’s our future. It is a little piece of Europe in our hands,” European commission president, Romano Prodi, declared in Brussels…The mood was uniformly upbeat at parties, pageants and ceremonies bidding farewell to once-treasured marks, francs, pesetas and lire.
“Our countdown is leading towards a new era,” Wim Duisenberg, the Dutch president of the European Central Bank (ECB), declared in Frankfurt. “By using euros, we will give a clear signal of the confidence and hope we have in tomorrow’s Europe.”
On a day of highs, Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor, hit the highest note. “We are witnessing the dawn of an age that the people of Europe have dreamed of for centuries: borderless travel and payment in a common currency,” he said in a new year message.
A shared dream? Really? How odd then that Germany’s political class never risked asking that country’s voters what they thought of the proposed new currency. No matter, the party went on:
…Brussels was celebrating last night with fireworks and dancing. But an earlier event went embarrassingly wrong when a giant euro symbol failed to rise up the facade of the commission’s Charlemagne building, generating sardonic comments about a bad start.
I don’t normally believe in omens, but…