Prof. Eugenio Domingo Solans, Member of the Governing Council and of the Executive Board of the European Central Bank (ECB), Speech delivered at the Chapelle des Brigittines, Brussels, 19 November 2001.
Commissioner for Education and Culture, Minister of Culture, Budget and Public Administration, Youth and Sport of the French Community, Mayor of Brussels, President of the Brigittines, Secretary General of the French Community, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to be here at the launch of this year's Netdays initiative. Not only is today an important day for all those involved with Netdays, but also for our information campaign, the Euro 2002 Information Campaign. In a short while we will announce the names of some of the winners of the competition that we organised for children aged eight to twelve throughout the euro area. We wanted children to be part of the process of preparing for the introduction of the euro banknotes and coins for two reasons: Children not only account for a substantial part of the euro area population of 300 million; they – like the euro – are also a symbol of our future.
As mentioned above, this children's competition is part of the Euro 2002 Information Campaign. You have just seen another of its key components – the first of our advertising campaign's five TV commercials, which are being broadcast in the 12 euro area countries. This advert was first shown in September during the first phase of the advertising campaign, with the aim of encouraging the population of the euro area to participate in the preparation process and of promoting the common currency as a symbol of our European identity. In a second wave, the four other television commercials will be shown throughout November and December in order to provide euro area citizens with detailed information on the new euro banknotes and coins and, in particular, their security features. The euro area public can rest assured that it will receive complete information about the new euro banknotes and coins and the changeover process and that it will therefore be ready for the new currency as of 1 January 2002.
The children's competition and the advertising campaign are key elements of the Euro 2002 Information Campaign's comprehensive information and education programme. With the support of the communications agency, Publicis, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the 12 national central banks of the euro area have been conducting the campaign since mid-2000, with the campaign slogan "the EURO. OUR money ".
Our information campaign concentrates on four main areas:
the visual appearance of the euro banknotes and coins;
their main security features;
the denominations of the euro banknotes and coins; and
the changeover process.
In order to reach such a broad public, we have developed partnerships with more than 3,000 national and international organisations. Our partners in both the public and private sector are using our information material on the euro banknotes and coins to broaden their audience and multiply the impact of our information campaign. National euro conferences have been organised and hosted by the national central banks throughout the euro area to bring together these partners and other key participants in order to spread the use of "best practices" in preparing both the general public and cash handlers for the 1 January changeover.
On key dates throughout the year we have been providing the media with press kits. By 1 January 2002 we will have distributed six different press kits to more than 3,000 media representatives.
200 million copies of an information leaflet on the euro banknotes and coins and their security features are currently being sent to every household in the euro area. This guide, entitled "Getting ready for the euro – Your guide to the banknotes and coins" provides practical information about the euro.
We are also providing training kits for banks and retail cashiers as well as for other professional cash handlers.
The internet has been fully integrated as an information tool. Throughout the campaign, the public has had access to all the relevant information on the banknotes and coins at www.euro.ecb.int in the 11 Community languages. The website, which has been in existence since the beginning of 2001, also provides information tools to partners and the media. It encourages children to learn about their new money as well. We are pleased to see that the number of visitors to our website has reached 13,000 daily. And the number is increasing.
The smooth introduction of the euro banknotes and coins as of 1 January 2002 is based on three pillars: logistics, legal and administrative aspects and, last but not least, information.
Information is certainly a fundamental prerequisite for the success of the euro cash changeover. To ensure a smooth and fluid replacement of the national banknotes and coins with euro, euro area citizens must appreciate the benefits to be derived from this operation which, in a nutshell, represents the culmination of the process of European monetary integration and a decisive step towards a more united Europe. People will only support what they value and are only able to value what they know well. This is why our information campaign is crucial to the success of the euro cash changeover.
This brings me back to the children's competition, which took place from 1 October to 15 November of this year. Through this competition, we have encouraged children and teachers to participate in the education process leading up to 1 January 2002.
Euro area children aged eight to twelve were invited to participate in the competition by answering five-multiple choice questions on euro banknotes and coins shown in a picture of a futuristic European city, and by telling us why they wanted to "be a Euro Superstar". They had the opportunity to enter the competition either by visiting our website or by using one of the seven million colourful posters which were distributed to classrooms throughout the euro area.
To enable as many children as possible to take part in the online competition, we had the opportunity to co-operate with Netdays Europe 2001. I want to take this opportunity to thank Ms Viviane Reding, European Commissioner, as well as the entire Netdays programme team for allowing us to link the children's competition to their website and to be part of the Netdays launch event this evening. We are very pleased to have the euro as a key element of Netdays 2001 at this crucial time for the introduction of the new banknotes and coins and to be given the chance to extend the reach of our competition.
The competition ended on Thursday 15 November. A draw for the internet competition winners took place last Friday, 16 November, at the ECB. Twelve first-prize winners, one per country, were selected, as were 600 runners-up (50 runners-up per country).
National draws organised by the national central banks will be taking place until the beginning of December to select the winners from the reply cards. These national draws will also determine 12 first prize winners and 600 runners-up.
The 24 first prize winners will be invited to come to Frankfurt to an event held on 31 December 2001. During an award ceremony they will receive a full set of euro banknotes in a special presentation frame, a fully equipped laptop and T-shirts for their class from the ECB's President.
This celebration will take place on the eve of the introduction of the euro banknotes and coins. Children are a symbol of our future and we are very happy to have them participate in such a historic event.
It is now my pleasure to show you a series of slides about the online competition and to reveal the names of the twelve first prize winners in the internet draw.
Ladies and gentlemen, on 31 December you will see the faces of our 24 "Euro Superstars" when they come to Frankfurt to receive and show to the world the first euro banknotes. I thank you very much for your attention.
Let us now congratulate them!