Bankers hope cultural theme will warm public to euro note

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The Independent Online
European cultural history has been chosen as the main thematic design for the new euro notes, which are due to start circulating in 2002, Europe's single currency planners revealed yesterday. A second theme will depict abstract images.

Other themes, such as transport or wildlife, which were being considered for the notes, have apparently been rejected.

Decisions over the design of the euro notes and coins are being taken in secrecy by the European Monetary Institute (EMI), the central bank- in-waiting, in Frankfurt, and by national mint masters.

The committees of bankers and technocrats who are planning the single currency want to produce designs which will make the public associate with the money and lose their doubts about the project.

Psychologists and historians have been employed to advise on how this can be best achieved. However, the same committees are nervous about sparking public debate on the design of the currency, for fear of divisive argument and a further backlash against the project. Recent opinion polls have shown growing public scepticism about European monetary union.

Under stiff criticism for failing to consult the public on what the notes should look like, the EMI announced in February that a design contest is to be held in each member state. However, the contest is being conducted in secrecy and only designers nominated by each national central bank may take part. The contest will run for the next seven months and the judgement on the design will not happen until 1998 on the eve of the launch of monetary union.

The designers will have to work within the specifications of the two themes announced yesterday - "ages and styles of Europe" and "abstract/modern". For the "ages and styles" theme, features on the seven denominations of banknote must show a specific period of European cultural history: classical, Romanesque, gothic, renaissance, baroque and rococo, the age of iron and glass, and the age of modern architecture.

The EMI has still failed to decide whether there should be any national symbol on the notes. If there were to be such a symbol it should occupy only 20 per cent of the space and should appear on only one face, said yesterday's report.

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