Address on the occasion of the opening ceremony of the Euro Exhibition at Narodowy Bank Polski
Speech by Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell,
Member of the Executive Board of the ECB,
Warsaw, 11 June 2010
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to be here today at Narodowy Bank Polski for the opening of the Euro Exhibition, which is dedicated to the common European currency: the euro.
First of all, I would like to talk about the remarkable history of the euro. Stage Three of Economic and Monetary Union began on 1 January 1999 with the irrevocable fixing of the exchange rates of the currencies of the 11 Member States of the European Union initially forming the euro area. The number of euro area countries has grown over the years, with the euro banknotes and coins now being legal tender in 16 of the 27 EU Member States. The single currency is used daily by almost 330 million citizens of the euro area, which stretches from Cyprus to Ireland and from Portugal to Finland, and even includes remote places such as the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean.
Over the eight years since the introduction of the euro banknotes and coins, the euro has become the most tangible symbol of European integration and has brought many advantages that can also be enjoyed by Polish citizens. For example, when travelling within the euro area, Polish citizens can use the euro as a means of payment across borders and thus only need to exchange their currency once. Furthermore, Polish enterprises, for which the euro area is an important trading partner, can use one currency, namely the euro, in their dealings with business partners from the 16 euro area countries.
Before being able to join the euro area, each EU country must meet a number of clearly defined criteria, namely:
it must not be subject to an EU Council decision that an excessive budget deficit exists;
it must have a price performance that is sustainable and an average inflation rate that does not exceed by more than one and a half percentage points that of the three best-performing EU countries in terms of price stability;
it must have had an average nominal long-term interest rate that does not exceed by more than two percentage points that of the three best-performing EU countries in terms of price stability;
its national currency must have participated in the Exchange Rate Mechanism II for at least two years and thus have respected the defined fluctuation margins of the currency towards the euro; and
it should ensure that it meets the requirements of legal convergence.
The latest Convergence Report of the European Central Bank concluded that Poland has not yet met these criteria. Achieving an environment conducive to sustainable convergence in Poland requires maintaining a price stability-oriented monetary policy and implementing a comprehensive and credible fiscal consolidation path.
Let me now return to the Euro Exhibition which we are inaugurating today. The Euro Exhibition is well travelled, having already been displayed in Bratislava, Barcelona, Rome, Berlin, Frankfurt and Luxembourg. After Warsaw, it will continue its journey across Europe to Tallinn in Estonia, which intends to join the euro area on 1 January 2011.
The main objective of the Euro Exhibition is to give citizens of all ages the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the euro. As you walk around the exhibition, you will no doubt recognise the images of bridges that feature on the back of the euro banknotes. These bridges symbolise communication between the people of Europe, and between Europe and the rest of the world. They also represent the connection between the past and present, and symbolise a common European future. The diversity of Europe is also reflected on the national sides of the euro coins, which depict national icons and symbols representing the heritage and culture of each euro area country.
The exhibition includes various interactive displays which will enable you to explore subjects ranging from the history of money to the production of euro banknotes. In addition, you will be able to learn how to check the security features of euro banknotes. Furthermore, there is a lot on offer for younger visitors. For example, there is a kids’ corner where children can enjoy the educational computer games, learn more about the features of euro banknotes or follow the story of Anna and Alex as they catch counterfeiters. For those of you here who have children, this is a good opportunity for them to learn about the euro in an entertaining way.
Ladies and gentlemen, I sincerely hope that you will enjoy your visit to the Euro Exhibition. It is a pleasure for me, on behalf of the European Central Bank, to declare the exhibition open.