For the first time since Charlemagne's reign in the ninth century, Europe is united with a common currency when the euro debuts as a financial unit in corporate and investment markets. Eleven European Union nations, representing 290 million people, launched the currency with hopes of increasing European integration and economic growth. Closing at a robust 1.17 U.S. dollars on its first day, the euro promised to give the dollar a run for its money in the new global economy. This initial optimism, however, soon petered out when the euro began a long, steady decline, dropping below dollar parity in December 1999 and losing another 20 percent of its value in 2000. Despite these setbacks, hard euro currency--decorated with architectural images, symbols of European unity, and member-state motives--is scheduled to hit the streets on January 1, 2002, permanently replacing the mark, markka, franc, lira, peseta, florin, Irish pound, Austrian schilling, and escudo by July of that year.
Single European currency debuts