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,
(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
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