Key dates for the new currency

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3 May 1998: first-wave particpants named; exchange rates set

31 December 1998: changeover weekend: institutions change systems ready to start trading in the euro

1 January 1 1999: exchange rates irrevocably locked; euro becomes legal currency of participating countries

4 January 1999: electronic trading in the euro begins: no physical notes and coins at this stage

1 January 2002: euro notes and coins introduced; all retail payments to be denominated in the euro

1 July 2002: local currencies withdrawn