The euro becomes the sole legal tender in all euro area countries
Two months after the introduction of the euro banknotes and coins on 1 January 2002, the euro will become the sole legal tender throughout the euro area at midnight tonight. The President of the European Central Bank, Dr. Willem F. Duisenberg, declared: "At midnight tonight, the 12 national currencies of the euro area will cease to be legal tender. However, the citizens of the euro area have not waited for this date to embrace the euro. They have been the key actors in this major step in the history of European integration. The euro area economy will undoubtedly build on this achievement in the months and years to come."
Credit institutions will continue to exchange national banknotes and coins for euro for a while, but this service will not always be free of charge. National central banks will exchange their respective national banknotes and coins at face value and free of charge for a long period of time – see the table below. In addition, until 31 March 2002 it will be possible to exchange national banknotes of any euro area country, free of charge, at points designated by the national central banks of the 12 euro area countries.
The return of national banknotes is continuing as expected, with the total value of national banknotes in circulation having declined from EUR 270 billion on 1 January 2002 to EUR 42 billion on 26 February.
Euro banknotes worth some EUR 242 billion are now in circulation, up from EUR 133 billion on 1 January 2002. The euro progress ratio, or EPR, which provides an indication of the rate of substitution of national banknotes by euro banknotes, reached 85.2% on 26 February 2002, up from 33% on 1 January 2002. It will only develop slightly in the future, as some national banknotes have probably been lost or destroyed and others will be kept as souvenirs or collectors' items.
Relatively few low-quality counterfeit euro banknotes have been discovered to date, and these were quickly identified as such. Nevertheless, consumers and professional cash-handlers should continue to check the authenticity of euro banknotes, according to the simple tests "FEEL - LOOK - TILT".
Limits for the exchange of national banknotes and coins at the national central banks of the euro area:
|Austria:||Indefinite for banknotes and coins|
|Belgium:||Indefinite for banknotes and 31 December 2004 for coins|
|Finland:||Ten years for banknotes and coins|
|France:||Ten years for banknotes and three years for coins|
|Germany:||Indefinite for banknotes and coins|
|Greece:||Ten years for banknotes and two years for coins|
|Ireland:||Indefinite for banknotes and coins|
|Italy:||Ten years for banknotes and coins|
|Luxembourg:||Indefinite for banknotes and 31 December 2004 for coins|
|Netherlands:||1 January 2032 for banknotes and 1 January 2007 for coins|
|Portugal:||20 years for banknotes and 31 December 2002 for coins|
|Spain:||Indefinite for banknotes and coins|