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Preparing for the euro

Choosing the appropriate changeover scenario is only one of the many steps EU Member States need to take before introducing the euro. Changing over to another currency is a major operation which requires massive preparations in order to ensure a smooth transition.

Preparations affect all parts of the economy and all levels of society, and are the responsibility of the national government. The national authorities draw up a national changeover plan outlining the overall framework and key elements of the transition to the euro, and appoint a national steering structure to coordinate and supervise its implementation.

The key elements to be covered by the practical preparations are:

  • the cash changeover;
  • the changeover of the different sectors (financial, retail, business in general, public administration, etc.);
  • the information and communication strategy.

The cash changeover

As soon as it gets the Council's green light to adopt the euro, the country first needs to obtain sufficient euro banknotes and coins to be ready for the cash changeover. It can do so by borrowing the required volume of euro banknotes from the Eurosystem – the ECB and the national central banks of the euro area – which must be paid back with the country’s own euro banknotes once the changeover is completed. Coins are produced by the country, either at the national mint if it has one, or commissioned from another country's mint if it doesn’t.

The national central bank first supplies commercial banks with euro cash well before it is put into circulation (€-day), a process which is called ‘frontloading’. In turn, commercial banks ‘sub-frontload’ retailers and other businesses with euro cash to enable them to give change in euro to their customers right from start of the changeover on €-day.

The introduction of euro cash is generally followed by a period of dual circulation during which national banknotes and coins are withdrawn but still have legal tender status. During this period, commercial banks exchange the former national currencies for euro cash without charge.

Preparations in the private and the public sector

Both the private and the public sector must adapt their administrative, financial, accounting and invoicing systems.

In order to help consumers to adapt mentally to the new currency and spot possible price changes, prices and other monetary amounts are displayed in both the national currency and euro in the months preceding and following €-day, either on a voluntary or a mandatory basis, depending on the country’s legislation on the matter, e.g. in shops, on bank account statements, and invoices.

Moreover, in order to build consumer confidence and allay consumers' fears of unfair price increases around the changeover, the country may adopt fair-pricing schemes:

  • Agreements between businesses and consumers on the respect of price stability during the changeover are recommended, e.g. in the form of codes of good conduct, preferably accompanied by signs and labels to identify those businesses which have signed up.
  • National authorities are also advised to develop price-monitoring schemes in co-operation with consumer associations, and keep the public informed about new price developments as they occur, in particular during the critical first weeks after the introduction of euro cash.

Finally, the country must adopt the necessary laws governing the introduction of the euro, and amend the existing national legislation where needed, notably to adapt references to monetary amounts (e.g. in tax provisions, social security laws and provisions on administrative fines, levies, grants, etc.).

Communicating on the euro

Timely and effective communication is another essential task for any EU country preparing to introduce the euro, and experience shows that it is critical to a successful changeover. Communication campaigns on the introduction of the euro must strive to ensure that people are able to recognise and use the new currency with full confidence and are fully informed about the consequences of the changeover. The Commission supports Member States in this task by means of partnership agreements with those EU countries which are approaching euro-area entry and have adopted a changeover communication strategy.

 Progress reports on the preparations for the enlargement of the euro area

The practical preparations in the EU countries which have not yet adopted the euro are monitored by the Commission, which reports regularly on their current status:

Learning from past experience

The introduction of euro banknotes and coins in 2002 was the largest-ever currency changeover. In preparation for it, around 14 billion notes and 52 billion coins were produced, of which some 7.8 billion notes and 40 billion coins were distributed at the beginning of January 2002 to 218 000 banks and post offices, 2.8 million sales outlets, and 302 million individuals in the 12 participating countries. In parallel, a large proportion of the 9 billion national notes and 107 billion national coins in circulation were withdrawn. The success of this huge operation was due to the thorough preparations, the active participation of all sectors involved, and the enthusiasm of the public.

Documents on the practical preparations for the 2002 cash changeover

More studies and reports on the launch of the euro were published between 1997 and 2002 as Euro Papers.