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Deutsch und der Euro

German and the euro (€)

Six years ago Germany and Austria said auf Wiedersehen to marks and schillings

In late 2001, Europe was in the midst of preparing for the euro (see our timeline) and was about to be transformed by the new currency (die Währung) in many ways. When citizens in 12 of the 15 European Union (EU) countries gave up their francs, lire, marks, pesetas and schillings and started using their new money at the beginning of 2002, they were using attractive banknotes designed by an Austrian and shiny new coins designed by a Belgian. (The euro symbol, €, was created by a German.)

Euros What do you know about Europe's
new currency? Can you pass our
German Euro-Quiz?

As the euro celebrates its sixth birthday (2008) as a circulating cash currency, it's a good time to learn more about the vocabulary and history of der Euro (OY-ROW). In 2007 Slovenia (Slowenien) was the first country to join die Eurozone since the euro’s 2002 debut, raising the number of countries using the euro from 12 to 13. On the first day of 2008 two more EU countries began using the euro: Cyprus and Malta, making the total 15.

The euro was actually around for a while before going into circulation as cash. After much wrangling over the currency's new name at a meeting of the Council of Europe (Europäischer Rat) in Madrid in December 1995, the old ECU unit (created in 1979) was dubbed the “euro” (der Euro in German) and became an official world currency in January 1999. The term “euro” won out over other suggestions because it was the only proposed name that could be pronounced easily in all European languages (the former ECU's German pronunciation sounded like “a cow”: eh Kuh) and the new term was free of any lexical connection to existing national currencies.

At the dawn of 1999, on its first official day of trading in Sydney, Australia (the international date line and all that), the euro debuted at 1.1747 US dollars, a positive sign to those who saw the euro as serious competition for the dominant world currency, the dollar. But the euro exchange rate later plunged below a dollar, reaching a record low of $0.827 in mid-2001. Supporters claimed the euro would gain strength once it finally got into the hands of consumers as spendable cash, and by mid-2004 it had indeed climbed to around $1.20, also reflecting weakness in the U.S. dollar. By the end of 2007 the currency had reached record highs against the US dollar: one euro cost over $1.44 (and some predicted $1.50 or more in 2008).

Lesestück 5 mit Fragen
Einführung des Euro

Despite the fact that it was not yet in circulation, the euro became legal coin of the realm in the then eleven “Euroland” countries following its 1999 introduction. At that time the German mark, the Austrian schilling and other currencies were each set at a fixed, irrevocable rate against the euro. The value of the Deutsche Mark or Österreichischer Schilling depended on its relationship to the euro. EU bank accounts and stock markets used the euro for cashless transactions, as so-called Buchgeld (money on account). Over the three-year period of 1999 through 2001, the citizens of euro countries were supposed to get used to the idea of the new money's arrival, while government and business prepared to put it into circulation. Technically, the mark and other European currencies were just tandem “partners” to the euro, the true legal tender in all of the euro zone nations.

But on the first day of 2002, the euro went from Buchgeld to Bargeld (cash). Despite polls indicating that Germans and Austrians were reluctant to give up their traditional currencies, euro notes and coins went into circulation in a dozen countries, including Germany and Austria, in January. Discover some euro vocabulary, who's in, who's out, what the timeline is, and more about the Austrian designer of the euro banknotes—in our Euro-Chronik (in both German and English versions).

NEXT > Euro-Chronik » 1 | 2 | 3 | Euro-Quiz

Euro & Money Glossary
An annotated English-German glossary.

Euro-Chronik - Deutsch
Euro facts and a chronology - in German.

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