The single currency: your questions answered

Birth of the Euro: Date is set for single currency as Germans and French dismiss Major's complaints over EMU
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The Independent Online
When will I be using the Euro?

Although the launch of monetary union is set for 1 January 1999, with the locking of exchange rates, the public will not see the colour of their new money until 2002. Euro notes and coins will start to circulate in January 2002. It is likely there will be a six-month period in which Euros will be used in tandem with existing national notes and coins. After 1 July 2002 the pound will not be legal tender and only the Euro will be used.

How will I understand prices in the shops once the Euro comes in?

The value of the Euro will equal the value of one Ecu, which is Europe's present basket currency. On present rates, the Euro will equal about 83p.

You will have to learn to calculate prices of groceries and other everyday purchases in Euros. During the six-month hand-over period, shops will probably have to display prices in Euros as well as pounds and pence, to help people make comparisons about values. In many ways the change- over will be similar to Britain's decimalisation in 1971.

Where will I get information? Will there be extra help for children, the elderly and the disabled?

Perhaps the biggest education campaign in history will be launched to teach people about the single currency. Television will play a leading part.

The European Commission is already planning the campaign and member states will get geared up soon. The British government will have to start teaching the public too, if it is to keep open the option of joining up. In the run-up to the launch, schoolbooks will have to be re-written and the school curriculum changed so children learn about the Euro.

Organisations for the blind insist that the new coins should be easily identifiable by touch. Aid groups will be taught how to take old people through the change.

What will the notes and coins look like? Will the Queen's head stay?

Experts are still working on the design. The coins are expected to be "two-tone" in design, rather like the French 10-franc piece, with a ring of gold surrounded by a ring of silver. Euro notes and coins are likely to be virtually identical in all member states to avoid confusion.

European pictorial themes are likely to be displayed on the currency, showing historic buildings, artists, or animals. Governments may agree to allow tiny national symbols to remain but there is unlikely to be room for the Queen's head.

What will happen to my savings?

Banks and building societies will automatically convert your savings in Euros but not until 2002. Although banks will start to carry out their own internal operations in Euros after 1999, customers will not be issued bank statements in Euros until 2002.

What about my pay cheque or my pension?

Again, these payments will be converted automatically to their equivalent value in 2002.

How will interest rates be calculated?

After 1999, interest rates will be set by the new European Central Bank and they will be the same for all countries inside monetary union. Backers of the single currency say interest rates will be more stable after monetary union.

What are the components of the Euro going to be called - the pennies or centimes or whatever?

That is not decided. Some wits suggest the Eurine, but they are just taking the mickey . . .

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