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Christine LagardeBack to OpinionChristine Lagarde

Europe and the euro

PARIS – For anyone living in the 16 eurozone member states, the euro’s enduring success is both a technical and an emotional issue; both hearts and minds are involved. I consider it axiomatic that the euro is vital to Europe and, indeed, to the world economy.

First of all, it should be recalled that the European idea began as a project for ensuring peace and democracy among Europe’s peoples. When the new currency was introduced in 1999 – and even more so when European citizens had their first opportunity to use it in January 2002 – it was experienced as the most tangible, decisive proof that European integration was a reality. As the slogan goes: euro in your wallet, Europe in your pocket.

Twenty years after the European Parliament was elected by universal suffrage in 1979, the introduction of the euro marked a logical extension of the European dream.

It should also be recalled, however, that when Slovenia entered the eurozone in 2007, many people suggested that the country was somehow joining “Old Europe.” But Cyprus, Malta, and Slovakia have since followed suit in making the euro their currency. From Dublin on the shore of the Irish Sea to Bratislava in the foothills of the Carpathians, the same coins and banknotes are legal tender, and they are constantly pushing back the European Union’s boundaries. Tomorrow will bring additional members, such as Estonia, which is slated to join the eurozone on January 1, 2011.

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Christine Lagarde is minister for economy, industry and employment of France.