To mark the anniversary of the arrival of the euro in the form of notes and coins, euronews spoke with Romano Prodi, who in 2002 was President of the European Commission
Simone Volte: “On the first of January we celebrated an important anniversary. Ten years ago euro bank notes and coins came into circulation: the new European currency for 11 Countries. To mark this anniversary, we are joined from Rome by Romano Prodi. I would like to start by asking how you felt at that time?”
Romano Prodi: “I’ve have many political memories but just one emotional memory. In Vienna during New Year Eve I was with the Austrian Chancellor. On the stroke of midnight we made the first purchase with the euro. The first legal purchase: we bought a bunch of flowers for our wives. And everyone was in the streets, in a joyful Vienna.
“On a small scale it’s the memory of something great. The personal emotion of an event, together with the awareness of its enormous importance. Because changing currency means changing the structure of the State.”
euronews: “What drove you all, what convinced you about the necessity to adopt a unique European currency?”
Prodi: “The same thing that convinces me even today – because I haven’t changed my mind. I mean, if we want to build up a new Europe we have to put together the pillars of a modern State. And these pillars are: the army and the currency. With ‘army’ I mean foreign policy, defence and security, with currency an economic symbol.
“Of course we could start with one or with the other, but historically we had this possibility, because the economical side has developed more quickly. That’s why, in that precise moment, we pushed with all our strength (to reach the target)because if the economy isn’t unified and we don’t have a common currency we can’t face the future.”
euronews: “Ten years after its birth the euro is experiencing its most difficult time. Do you see a future for the common currency?”
Prodi: “Well, the difficult moments were predictable. When we created the euro, my objection, as an economist (and I talked about it with Kohl and with all the heads of government) was: how can we have a common currency without shared financial, economical and political pillars? The wise answer was: for the moment we’ve made this leap forward. The rest will follow.
“Then instead came the Europe of fear: fear of China, fear of immigrants, fear of globalisation. So it was clear that this crisis would arrive. But the euro is so important, it’s so convenient for everyone — especially Germany — that I’ve no doubt that the euro won’t just survive, but it will be one of the landmarks for the world economy.”