MEDIA WATCH: Smooth launch of new currency prompts vast"Euro-phoria"

January 1 marked the launch of the new euro coins and bills in 12

of the 15 European Union countries: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France,

Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal,

and Spain.



(The UK, Finland and Sweden opted not to participate).



The event marks the first time since the reign of Charlemagne - some

1,200 years ago - that most of Europe conducts its business in a common

currency. Although these countries' former currencies will still be

accepted for another two months, the conversion was labeled "the biggest

money changeover in history" (CNN, December 31).



The foremost topic in American media coverage of the launch was on the

logistics of introducing the euro into a market of more than 300 million

people. The Los Angeles Times (January 3) described the challenge as

"the biggest peacetime logistical challenge in history."



By all accounts, the launch was widely seen as a huge success, with only

minor delays, minimal confusion, and little resistance or skepticism on

the part of the European people. CNBC (January 2) reported on some of

the glowing terms being used to evaluate the launch - "flawless,

precise, smooth, remarkable."



The same CNBC broadcast featured comments from the French foreign

minister, who credited the success of the launch to the large-scale

information campaign that the European Union had undertaken in advance

of the launch, which had been planned for about a decade.



American media coverage also frequently contained man-on-the-street

interviews with Europeans on their views of the euro. For the most part,

there was optimism about how well the euro would be received. USA Today

(December 31) published a cover story on the euro that quoted an Italian

grocer as saying, "I don't give a hoot about the lira. I look forward to

the euro. Europe should have united centuries ago."



Other stories focused on the economic benefits of having a common

currency, citing increased efficiencies due to reductions in the cost of

doing business across national borders, facilitating travel with the

Eurozone, the elimination of the need to exchange currencies, making it

easier to compare prices from country to country, and the larger benefit

of being a part of the world's second most-used currency.



A number of reports positioned the launch of the euro as a step towards

greater political unity in Europe. Indeed, The Washington Post (December

31) quoted Romano Prodi, the European Commission's president, as saying,

"A single European money is part of the larger goal of building a single

Europe."



Finally, some of the coverage addressed financial issues relating to the

euro, such as the fact that the euro has lost nearly a quarter of its

value relative to the US dollar since it was first introduced as an

electronic currency three years ago. These reports noted that the dollar

remains the currency of choice around the world.



The success of the euro coins and bills has already prompted talk of

which countries might be next to join the Eurozone. These discussions

ranged from the possibility of the UK, Finland, and Sweden reversing

their policies, to which countries are in line to become members of the

European Union. What's more, the success of the euro launch has already

prompted discussion about whether Central America or Latin America might

undertake a similar endeavor.



Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found

at www.carma.com.



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