Postcard from... Brussels

 

The eurozone is getting a new member, and with Latvia’s entry comes a new coin that could rattle around in pockets from the southern shores of Cyprus to the northern reaches of Finland.

At a press conference yesterday in Brussels to mark the nation’s official acceptance as the 18th member of the currency, Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis introduced the bloc to Milda, a Latvian maiden whose face will emblazon €1 and €2 coins when they finally hit Europe’s streets on 1 January next year.

While she may be unfamiliar to most Europeans, she means a lot to Latvians, who were polled to find out which figure they wanted on the coins. Her image first appeared on a limited number of silver coins minted in the 1920s and 1930s, before the Red Army arrived in 1940.

“During the Soviet occupation people were storing those coins as a reminder of the independence of Latvia so this design has a strong symbolic meaning in Latvia,” Mr Dombrovskis said.

The choice is particularly apt as the nation’s decision to join the troubled eurozone is in part to strengthen its ties with Europe and reduce its dependency on neighbouring Russia.

Milda will join only a handful of women on euro coins: two of them – like Milda – are symbols rather than historical figures. France has Marianne on its one, two and five cent coins, while some Italian coins feature Venus. Austria, meanwhile, immortalises the 19th-century pacifist Bertha von Suttner on its €2 coin. The Dutch coins currently feature the head of Princess Beatrix, but with her abdication earlier this year they will eventually be replaced with coins bearing the image of her son, King Willem-Alexander.

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