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France mints first euro coin

May 11, 1998
Web posted at: 1:29 p.m. EDT (1729 GMT)

PESSAC, France (CNN) -- The first euro coin was struck at France's official mint Monday, making France the first of the 11 nations participating in the launch of the single currency in 1999 to produce the money.

In a formal ceremony, Economy Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn pressed a button activating the minting press stamping the continent's first one-euro coins in the southwest town of Pessac, near Bordeaux.

Giving the coin a bite, a proud Strauss-Kahn said: "This is the real thing, it's no copy. It's the first produced in France as well as in Europe".

Minting of the euro coin
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The first coins will be a limited series, with mass production due later. The mint has already begun striking the lower denomination cent coins.

France is scheduled to strike 7.6 billion coins, weighing 30,000 tons -- four times the weight of the landmark Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The eight different coins, worth between 0.01 and two euros, will be struck with one European side and one national side.

The last of a tasty baguette? No! Strauss-Kahn tests the durability of the new Euro coin   

In France, coins worth one, two and five cents will carry the portrait of Marianne, the female symbol of the French republic, while 10-, 20- and 50-cent pieces will feature a sower of seeds.

One- and two-euro coins are to carry a tree of life.

Belgium, Spain and Italy were expected to begin producing their euros in the summer while Austria has decided to begin in autumn and Germany by the end of the year.

What is the euro?

The euro will be the official currency of nearly 290 million consumers in the 11 participating single-market nations of the European Union. The currency will be phased in gradually: from January 1, 1999, onwards. Foreign exchange operations then can begin in euros and all new public debt issues will also be in euros. Banking is still possible both in euro and the national currency.

At the start of 2002, at the latest, euro notes and coins will gradually replace notes and coins in national currencies, and there will be a complete changeover to the euro for public administration matters.

All national notes and coins from participating member states will be gone by mid-2002, at the latest.

The newly created European Central Bank will be the official body to decide money matters.

Euro: Success or failure?

Supporters say the euro will revitalize the participating economies, lead to lower prices for consumers and make Europe a key industrial force to rival the economies of the United States and Japan.

Opponents say the tight fiscal policy needed to become a euro member will unravel in light of rising unemployment and a one-size-fits-all interest rate for an area in which there will be wide variations in economic trends.


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