PRESS RELEASE

The EMI's mandate with respect to banknotes

2 July 1997

Under Article 105a (1) of the Treaty on European Union (commonly known as the Maastricht Treaty), the European Central Bank (ECB) will have the exclusive right to authorise the issue of banknotes within the Member States participating in the euro area. The ECB and the national central banks will issue such banknotes, which shall be the only banknotes with legal tender status.

Given the long lead times necessary to produce the euro banknotes, the EMI is undertaking a number of preparatory activities, in line with its responsibility under Article 109f (3) of the Treaty, to supervise the technical preparation of the euro banknotes. To this end, a Working Group on Printing and Issuing a European Banknote has been set up which reports to the EMI Council on all issues of preparatory work in the banknote area. All relevant items on which the EMI Council has reached agreement will be submitted for decision to the Governing Council of the ECB.

The changeover scenario adopted by the European Council in Madrid in December 1995 provides for the production of euro banknotes to start in 1998 following a decision by the ECB, which will also announce, before 1 January 1999, the precise date on which the euro banknotes will be put into circulation. Euro banknotes will be put into circulation by 1 January 2002, at the latest.

The right to issue euro coins lies with the Member States, although the size of the issue requires the approval of the ECB. The EU Finance Ministers (the ECOFIN Council) have entrusted the handling of technical problems associated with the production of euro coins to the Working Group of Mint Directors, which comprises the heads of the Mints in all the EU countries.

The Amsterdam European Council meeting (June 1997) endorsed the choice of the design for the common side of the euro coins and welcomed the fact that "this provides a tangible sign to citizens of the preparation of the euro". It also invited the ECOFIN Council to adopt the draft Regulation defining the denominations and technical specifications of the euro coins. There will be eight euro coins ranging from one cent to EURO 2. The draft Regulation follows detailed consultation of consumer groups (in particular the blind and partially sighted) and representatives of the vending machine industry. It also reflects a considerable amount of preparatory work by the Working Group of Mint Directors, which has liaised with the EMI's Banknote Working Group in this connection so as to ensure that preparatory work on the euro banknotes and on the euro coins can progress in parallel to the greatest possible extent.

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