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The production and issue of banknotes in the EU member states

2 July 1997


Thirteen EU Member States have their own banknote printing works. In eight countries these printing works are part of the national central bank (Belgium, Denmark, Greece, France, Ireland, Italy, Austria and the United Kingdom). In two countries (Finland and Sweden), the printing works take the form of limited companies wholly owned by the national central bank. In Spain banknote printing is taken care of by a public company external to the central bank (the Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre). In the Netherlands, banknotes are printed by a private company (Enschedé). Finally, in Germany, the Bundesbank has two suppliers: the Bundesdruckerei (a public company whose printing works is located in Berlin) and Giesecke & Devrient (a private company based in Munich).

These 14 printing works produced approximately 9 billion banknotes in 1996:

  • 7 billion "domestic" banknotes (legal tender banknotes for the EU domestic market);
  • 2 billion banknotes were exported to issuing authorities outside the EU.

Two EU Member States, Luxembourg and Portugal, do not have their own banknote printing works. Both countries buy their banknotes from commercial security printers (De La Rue and Oberthur).


Almost all central banks in the EU provide the following services with respect to banknote and coin circulation:

  • distribution of banknotes and coins in response to orders;
  • acceptance of surplus and unfit banknotes/coins;
  • verification and sorting to remove unfit and counterfeit banknotes/coins;
  • destruction of unfit banknotes and disposal of unfit coins.

The attached charts give some useful indications of the use of banknotes in the Member States:

It is worth highlighting the following:

  • The value of banknotes in circulation in the European Union (approximately ECU 390 billion at end-1996) now represents 5.8% of the EU's Gross Domestic Product (against 5% in 1990).
  • In Germany, Italy and Spain, there has been an increase in the ratio of the value of banknotes in circulation to Gross Domestic Product in the last five years. In most other countries, the ratio has remained stable.
  • There were 12.7 billion banknotes in circulation at end-1996 in the fifteen Member States. [1]
  • It is estimated that the average life of a banknote in Europe is two years.
  1. [1] These figures include Scottish and Northern Irish banknotes.


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