The euro is now 20 years, a period marked by crises, but in which it has positioned itself as the second most important currency in the world, being the currency of 19 countries, including Portugal, and 340 million Europeans.
Launched on January 1, 1999, the euro became, at that time, the currency of more than 300 million people.
On that day, the exchange rate was fixed – in the Portuguese case, a euro was worth 200,482 escudos – and, in terms of monetary policy, the national currencies, like the escudo, ceased to exist independently.
Over the next three years, the euro was an ‘invisible’ currency, used only for accounting purposes, such as electronic payments, since it was only on January 1, 2002, that euro notes and coins came into circulation.
Initially, the euro was the official currency of 11 European Union (EU) countries, including Portugal.
With the enlargement of the EU, the eurozone has gained new members and today comprises 19 countries – Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands and Portugal.
The two decades of the euro are also marked by crises, notably the international financial crisis in 2008 and the eurozone public debt crisis that began in 2009.
European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis has called on the past, precisely because of the crisis that struck the world ten years ago, and in particular, the eurozone and the European currency, to look to the future.
“We have learned important lessons, we have strengthened the architecture of our Economic and Monetary Union and the euro is stronger today than ever before, but our work is not over. because we need to do our homework and strengthen the resilience of our individual economies and the euro area as a whole, ” he said in a written statement about the euro’s 20 years.
The EU Vice-President discussed the deepening of Economic and Monetary Union, whose first concrete steps were taken with the political backing of European leaders at the December 14 Euro Summit and the decisions of the Eurogroup, chaired by Mario Centeno, on the reform of the European Stability Mechanism and the Banking Union.
Mário Centeno, for his part, assumed that the resilience of the single currency requires “permanent efforts” for reform, in particular through the deepening of Economic and Monetary Union.
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the ‘birth’ of the euro, the Eurogroup president and finance minister of Portugal chose the single currency as ‘one of the greatest European successes’.
“Its importance and its impact during the first two decades of its history are undisputed, but its future remains unwritten.” The responsibility that weighs on us is thus historical, “he said in a statement released on Sunday.
Also on the 20th anniversary of the euro, European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi said in a speech on 15 December that “the two decades that the euro existed may have been unique,” first with ” the culmination of a 30-year recovery in the global financial cycle, “and then” the worst economic and financial crisis since the 1930s. ”
For the President of the ECB, exceptional as they were, these two periods can teach useful lessons about what still needs to be done.