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?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas