The euro starts life with a squabble

Believe it or not, this is history in the making ...

FIFTEEN men in suits yesterday made history over a long lunch on the 50th floor of the Justus Lipsius Building, named after a little- known Flemish humanist. At a stroke the grey gathering replaced 11 European currencies, including the German mark and the French franc, with the euro.

As usual, though, there first had to be an embarrassing eurosquabble, over whether a faceless Frenchman or an equally obscure Dutchman would head the new European Central Bank. Tony Blair eventually triumphed with the deal trailed for days: Wim Duisenberg will officially take the job for the full eight years, but will voluntarily bow to the French candidate, Jean-Claude Trichet, half way through the term, in 2002. But the French demanded written confirmation of the fudge, clearly violating the Maastricht Treaty and outraging Mr Duisenberg's German backers.

By the time all this had been sorted out, after midnight, any sense of celebration had evaporated. Samples of the 20 euro note were handed out like confetti at the summit, but the euro coins and notes will not begin to circulate until January 2002. The gloomy skies, and the lack of any public manifestation of joy in the streets, belied the historic nature of the events taking place behind the plate glass windows of the EU headquarters. It was a Belgian bank holiday, and the burghers of Brussels were away for the May Day weekend.

Dulled by years of preparation, some of those attending the birth of the euro were slow to appreciate its significance, although one noted British eurosceptic writer announced: "We are witnessing history." Britain's past marginalisation under Margaret Thatcher and John Major was replaced by the new mood of co-operation under Mr Blair and his Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who emphasised his warm support for the new currency. "It is the beginning of a new era for our continent," commented Mr Brown. Did he say error? No: on the eve of the meeting he had predicted that the euro would be a success.

Friction in Brussels yesterday may be echoed in London tomorrow. Currency markets are open in spite of the holiday, amid fears of a flight from the euro-currencies into sterling. The Emperor Charlemagne never had this problem when he introduced Europe's first single currency, based on silver, 1,100 years ago.

Dawn of the euro, page 14, and Business

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea