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Report on the legal protection of banknotes in the EU Member States

9 November 1999

The European Central Bank (ECB) today published its "Report on the legal protection of banknotes in the EU Member States" [pdf 430 kB]. The Report is intended as a contribution to the preparation of the legal framework for the protection of euro banknotes within the EU Member States.

The Report covers various aspects of the legal regime for the protection of euro banknotes. These include counterfeiting; copyright protection; anti-copying devices for reproduction equipment;; the adoption and publication of euro banknote designs; the exchange of damaged or worn euro banknotes; the withdrawal of euro banknotes; the issuance of banknotes by entities other than the ECB and the National Central Banks (NCBs) and issuance of non-legal tender banknotes, the so-called "fancy" banknotes.

The major conclusions of the Report can be summarised as follows:

  • The legal situation in all 15 Member States with regard to counterfeiting is reasonably satisfactory and subsequent adaptation of criminal law is a competence of the individual Member States. Further convergence on this topic should be addressed in the framework of intergovernmental co-operation. It is also suggested that anti-copying devices should be introduced in view of the threat of counterfeiting by way of colour copying and other reproduction machinery.
  • As regards copyright protectionthe Report takes the view that the euro banknotes should feature the © symbol. It also recommends that uniform reproduction rules for euro banknotes should be used throughout the euro area.
  • Concerning rules for the redemption of damaged or mutilated banknotes the Report takes the view that these should be (i) harmonised, or even made uniform, throughout the euro area; (ii) fair and sufficient to guarantee a high level of protection against fraud or deception; (iii) relatively easy to enforce; and (iv) made public.
  • It is also proposed to outline the basic rules applicable to the future withdrawal of euro banknotes.
  • The Report addresses also the legal regime applicable to banknotes issued by entities other than the ECB and the NCBsnamely by some commercial banks and local authorities, and analyses the problems that such arrangements would entail in Stage Three of EMU.
  • Concerning the issuance of non-legal tender tokens and banknotes denominated in euro - the so-called "fancy" banknotes - the Report takes the view that this might become a matter of concern, particularly during the transitional period when the euro exists as a currency without euro monetary signs. Therefore it is recommended that the issuance of fancy euro banknotes and coins be deterred.

The full Report will be distributed by each of the EU central banks to interested parties in their respective countries. Copies are also available from the ECB at the following address:


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