The euro is the single currency for 19 EU Member States that comprise the euro area.
Euro cash (banknotes and coins was introduced on 1 January 2002 in 12 countries, including Greece, and replaced the national banknotes and coins at the irrevocably fixed conversion rates. Today, after more countries have joined the euro area, the euro is the currency of more than 340 million Europeans.
The introduction of the eurο marked the third stage of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), as decided by the European Council in 1989. The first stage of EMU was the removal of all restrictions on capital movements between the Member States, the second was the strengthening of economic convergence and the third was the irrevocable fixing of conversion rates for the currencies of the Member States that would participate in the Monetary Union and comprise the euro area.
The successful introduction of the euro has created a Europe in which people, services, capital and goods can move freely.
Criteria for participating in the euro area
At present, not all EU Member States have adopted the euro. Before they can adopt the euro and join the euro area, countries must have achieved a high degree of sustainable economic convergence.
This means that their economies must be capable to keep pace with the economies of the countries that already use the euro, and also fulfil certain criteria such as: a high degree of price stability, sound public finances, stable exchange rates and convergence of long-term interest rates.
The current member countries of the euro area had to fulfil the same criteria.
Denmark and the United Kingdom made use of an opt-out clause, by notifying the EU Council that they do not intend for the time being to become part of the euro area.
The role of central banks in the circulation of the euro
The responsibility for producing euro banknotes and putting them into circulation is shared among the European Central Bank and the national central banks of the euro area countries.
More specifically, the European Central Bank (ECB) has the exclusive right to authorise the issue of euro banknotes by the national central banks, while the responsibility for producing, issuing and withdrawing euro banknotes is allocated to the national central banks of the euro area countries.
Unlike banknotes, euro coins are still a national competence and not the ECB’s. If a euro area country intends to issue coins bearing new motifs on the national side – e.g. a commemorative circulation coin – it has to inform the European Commission. The Commission will then publish the information in the multilingual Official Journal of the EU (C series). It is the authoritative source upon which the ECB bases its website updates on euro coins.
The role of the Bank of Greece
The Bank of Greece puts euro banknotes and coins into circulation via the banking system. In addition, it takes all necessary measures to ensure a high quality of banknotes in circulation and protect them against counterfeiting.
Furthermore, it is the Bank's task to ensure the smooth and efficient supply of euro banknotes and coins to the banking sector.
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