Today, the euro is used by close to 350 million Europeans.

There are 20 EU countries using the euro as their official currency: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

At the same time, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican City also use the euro based on monetary agreements with the EU while Kosovo and Montenegro both de facto use the euro as their currency, despite  not being part of the EU.

In November 2023, there were 29.2 billion euro banknotes in circulation with a value of about €1.5 trillion, with the €50 note being the most widely used.

There are nearly 148 billion coins in circulation, with a total value of over €33.4 billion.

Support for the euro

Although the euro has been around for 25 years, it has proved to be a stable and trusted currency.

The last Eurobarometer report, dated October 2023, shows that nearly eight of 10 respondents in the euro area think that having the euro is a good thing for the EU and nearly seven in 10 think that having the euro is a good thing for their country.

As for Maltese citizens, nearly eight out of 10 respondents believe that having the euro is a good thing for both the EU and Malta, by making it easier and less costly to travel, easier to do business, compare prices and shop in different EU countries.

The value of unity

The euro is not just a currency. It has transformed the way business is done and has united diverse communities of people across the euro area. It is a source of comfort and security, from being part of one of the world’s largest trading blocs – the EU – and Europe’s single market. The euro has strengthen European integration by enabling citizens of the euro area to benefit from the single market.

Fit for the future

The euro is a currency that evolves alongside the changing financial needs and choices of European citizens, for example, by supplying safe banknotes and fast and convenient digital payments.

At the Central Bank of Malta, we strive to keep your euro banknotes safe and secure by protecting them from counterfeiters, by being as environmentally friendly as |possible and more inclusive of Europeans of all ages and backgrounds.

A digital euro would be a safe, reliable and easy to use means of payment- Emmanuel Cachia

Euro area citizens and experts have been invited to provide their views on what future euro banknotes could look like, with the European Central Bank’s governing council selecting “European culture” and “Rivers and birds” as possible themes for future euro banknotes.

Exploring a digital euro

In line with a growing trend towards the use of more digital payment methods and the absence of central bank money in this medium of exchange, in June 2023 the European Commission presented a legislative proposal to set out a framework for a possible digital form of the euro.

In parallel, in October 2023 the ECB decided to move its digital euro project to the preparation phase, which will lay the foundations for the potential issuance of a digital euro.

A digital euro would be a safe, reliable and easy to use means of payment for citizens when physically buying in shops or online across the euro area, or between citizens themselves, thus complementing the use of physical cash.

Indeed, the commission has proposed legislation to safeguard access to euro banknotes and coins and the right to pay by cash across the euro area.

A digital euro would also help strengthen the monetary sovereignty of the euro area and foster competition in the European payments sector.

The euro has been key in bonding the EU single market and strengthening its four fundamental freedoms of movement: of goods, services, capital and labour.

The words of former ECB president Mario Draghi during the European sovereign debt crisis of 2012, that within its mandate “the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro”, have indeed been testimony to sustaining this unity.

Emmanuel Cachia is manager, knowledge services, Central Bank of Malta.

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