Euro Timeline

A Euro Chronology

The euro timeline begins in the aftermath of World War II and reveals the history of the euro and its impact on Europe and the world. Notice how the euro’s history is closely tied to the development of European unity in general. After you have read the timeline (1946 to the present) and the preceding pages you’ll be ready to take our Euro Quiz.

A one-euro coin

A one-euro coin (Münze)

Following the devastation of World War II, Winston Churchill calls for the “United States of Europe.” — but without Great Britain.

As a result of the Bretton Woods (New Hampshire, USA) agreement of 1944, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) opens for business and a fixed rate of exchange is set between the US dollar and other world currencies, based on the gold standard.

The Allied currency reform of June 20 creates the Deutsche Mark (DM) which goes into circulation in the three Allied occupation zones (West Germany).

On the initiative of Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet of France, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) is founded by six countries: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands and West Germany. The ECSC treaty (Montanunion) goes into effect on June 25, 1952. The ECSC would become the basis for the future “Common Market” (EEC, EC) and European Union (EU).

On March 25, 1957 the same six countries sign the Treaty of Rome, thereby creating the European Economic Community (EEC) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM). The “Common Market” agreement goes into effect on Jan. 1, 1958.

In July the European Community (EC) is formed by the merger of the ECSC, EEC and EURATOM.

The Euro’s Design
Each euro banknote has its own design, size and color scheme. The size of the paper money increases from the smaller 5-euro bill up to the larger 500-euro bill (to help the blind).

5 euro – grey
10 euro – red
20 euro – blue
50 euro – orange
100 euro – green
200 euro – ochre
500 euro – mauve

One euro equals 100 euro cents. The euro coins were designed by Luc Luycx of the Belgian mint. The front (obverse, heads) side is the same in all countries. Unlike the bills, which have the same design in all countries, the coins’ reverse (tails) side is unique to each country. (The German 10, 20 and 50-cent coins, for example, feature the Brandenburg Gate.) Euro coins are minted in the following denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 cent; one and two-euro coins.

In July the Tariff Union (Zollunion) abolishes all tariffs and import restrictions between EC countries and introduces a single tariff rate for trade between EC and non-EC countries.

Leaders of the EC countries propose a three-stage economic and currency union to be formed over ten years. The so-called “Werner Plan” is named for Luxembourg’s Pierre Werner.

The Werner Plan is approved but fails with the collapse of the Bretton Woods system that had gone into effect in 1947. The US abandons the gold standard and worldwide fixed exchange rates.

The EC countries establish the European Currency Cooperative. Exchange rate fluctuations among EC currencies are limited to a range of 2.25 percent above or below set rates.
September 26: Norwegian voters reject EC membership.

Following the entry of Denmark, Great Britain and Ireland, the EC now has nine member states.

The Council of Europe becomes a permanent institution, agreeing to hold regular summit meetings of EC leaders.

March: The ECU (European Currency Unit) is created as an artificial currency, a composite of national currencies in the new European Monetary System (EMS). Twenty years later, the ECU will evolve into the euro. June 7-10: First direct elections of members of the European Parliament.

Greece joins the EC.

Spain and Portugal become EC members.

November 9: The Berlin Wall opens, paving the way for German reunification in 1990.

December 15-16: Aiming to strengthen the European economy and eliminate intra-European trade barriers, the Council of Europe meets in Madrid. The old ECU unit, created in 1979, is renamed the “euro” – a term that works well in all of the languages in the EU. The new name is also free of any lexical connection to existing national currencies.

April: In an expansion of Schengen, all border controls between Austria, Germany and Italy are abolished.
May 3: Eleven EU countries agree on Jan. 1, 1999 as the date for European Monetary Union (EMU) and the introduction of the euro.
June 2: The new European Central Bank (ECB) opens for business in Frankfurt am Main.

January 1: The euro and the EMU (European Monetary Union) are born. The euro becomes the legal currency in eleven EU countries (along with national currencies) but will not go into cash circulation until January 1, 2002.

Euro Rates Set in 1999
The euro rates below and those for the other national currencies of each euro-zone country were permanently set just before midnight on the last day of 1998, on the eve of the euro’s debut on the first day of 1999.

1 euro (€ | EUR) =
13.7603 ÖS Austrian schillings (ATS)
1.95583 DM German marks (DEM)

The Designer of the Euro
The Austrian graphic designer Robert Kalina designed the euro banknotes on a Macintosh computer using Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Freehand software. Kalina graduated from Vienna’s School of Graphic Arts in 1975. His designs were chosen in a 1996 competition that specified strict requirements for the new money’s look and security features. Kalina, an engraver at the Austrian National Bank, had only six months to complete the final designs for each of the seven euro bills in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros, each with its own architectural theme (classical, baroque, romanesque, etc.).

The euro celebrates its first birthday on Jan. 1. It is still a cashless currency used for euro zone bank accounts and stock market transactions.
May 3: The EU Commission proposes that Greece become the 12th member nation in the EMU.

The euro celebrates its second birthday on Jan. 1.
Sept. 1: Advance distribution of euro notes and coins to banks and businesses begins.
Oct. 1: Prices must now be displayed in both euros and the national currency.
Dec. 15: Advanced distribution of euro notes and coins to consumers begins.
As of Monday December 17 financial institutions can distribute euro coin bags or “Starter Kits” to the general population.

January 1: Euro banknotes and coins go into circulation in the 12-nation euro zone. (See the current euro country list below.) The euro can be used along with the traditional currency until the end of February, but consumers get change back in euros only. The national currency is no longer valid for bank accounts or cashless transactions. Travelers in the euro zone no longer have to exchange money as they move from one country to another. Prices are displayed in euros only.

Postage Stamps – Briefmarken
On January 1, 2002, besides new coins and bills, there were also new euro postage stamps! Existing postage stamps in every euro country remained valid until June 30, 2002. Although they are marked in cents or euros, German stamps continue to display the country of origin: “Deutschland.” Questions about German stamps? Visit the Deutsche Post AG Web site. (Also in English). – Deutsche Post – Philatelie

February 28: The former national currencies are no longer legal tender. The euro is the only money that can be used legally throughout the euro zone.
March 1: German commercial banks no longer have to exchange marks for euros, but old notes and coins can be exchanged indefinitely at any branch of the Bundesbank, the German central bank (also in English).

Sept. 14: In a referendum Swedish voters say nej (no) to having their country adopt the euro. This is seen as a setback for adding other countries to “Euroland,” particularly Great Britain.

Jan. 1: The euro celebrates its fifth birthday and Slovenia joins the euro zone as the 13th nation using the currency. As the euro entered its fifth year as a cash currency, it was trading at a rate of about $1.30 USD. However, many Europeans were still not fond of the new money, despite the fact that it was becoming a strong competitor for the dollar. They often have the false impression that the euro has led to higher prices (“der Teuro”), although in fact, adjusted for inflation, prices in euros were not higher. The euro also makes it easier for people to compare prices for specific items among the euro countries.

Test yourself on your euro knowledge with our self-scoring Euro Quiz.

Jan. 1: On the euro’s sixth birthday it was trading at a rate of about US$1.45. In 2008 two more countries (Cyprus and Malta) join the euro zone.

Jan. 1: On the euro’s seventh birthday Slovakia gives up its koruna to join the euro zone, making a total of 16 nations now using the euro as their official currency.

Euro banknotes

Euro banknotes range from five to 500 euros. PHOTO: ECB

The 2010 Euro Crisis
First Greece, then Ireland must declare they are insolvent and each require a massive financial rescue package from the other euro nations. The euro faces rough waters as it becomes clear that there is no effective mechanism for coordinating the economies of the euro’s member nations — and dealing with countries that incur too much sovereign debt. Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Spain are also causes for concern.

May 2010: The euro countries and the International Monetary Fund agree to a 110 billion euro loan for Greece, plus 440 billion euros in loan guarantees to create the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF). Combined with other loans, the EFSF can provide up to 750 billion euros in rescue funds.

November 2010: Now it is Ireland that needs a bailout, sparking new worries about the future of the euro. But Germany, the strongest economy in the Euro Zone, expresses support for the common currency, even though it is not happy about having to help bail out its profligate neighbors. Critics say the euro needs a more reliable mechanism to cope with its basic ongoing problems.

January 1: Estonia joins the Euro Zone, making a total of 17 nations now using the euro as their official currency. As 2011 begins, the euro faces its biggest test since it first began circulation in 2002.

The 19 Euro Zone members and the euro
As of January 2015, 19 of the 28 EU countries were using the euro as their national currency:

Austria, Belgium, Cyprus (2008), Estonia (2011), Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia (2014), Lithuania (2015), Luxembourg, Malta (2008), Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia (2009), Slovenia (2007), Spain

Non-EU Countries using the euro
Five small non-EU countries in Europe have adopted the euro, either on their own or by special agreement:
Andorra, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, Vatican City

Non-Euro Zone EU Countries
Eight EU countries have either opted out of the euro or not yet met the requirements:
Bulgaria, Croatia (joined EU on July 1, 2013), Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Sweden, United Kingdom

The Lonely Two:
Two western European nations, Norway (krone) and Switzerland (Swiss franc, CHF), are neither EU nor euro countries.

March: Now it’s the banks in Cyprus that are insolvent, and the Euro Zone is again in crisis. This has repercussions in Greece as well, which now seems much less stable than once thought.

July: Latvia gains approval to join the Euro Zone as of January 1, 2014.

January 1: Latvia becomes the 18th nation to use the euro as its official currency. The former eastern block nation was already issuing postage stamps denominated in euros. Latvia wants to decrease its dependency on Russia and have closer ties to western Europe.

January 1: Lithuania becomes the 19th country to join the Euro Zone. Following Latvia and Estonia, it is the third Baltic state to adopt the euro. Although Lithuania had originally intended to become a euro nation in 2007, it failed to meet some of the EU’s requirements. But on July 16, 2014 the European Parliament voted to allow Lithuania to adopt the euro in 2015.

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