Euro banknotes to get first big redesign with 19-nation consultation

New theme being sought to replace current ‘ages and styles’ motif, says European Central Bank

Euro banknotes are facing a redesign for the first time since their launch two decades ago, with a plan to make the currency “more relatable to Europeans of all ages and backgrounds”.

The European Central Bank (ECB) said it was starting a process to select new designs for banknotes, in consultation with citizens from across the 19 nations that use them, before a final decision is taken by 2024.

In a process expected to take several years, it said a panel of experts from each member state would form an advisory group to come up with a new theme to replace the current series of notes, which are based on an “ages and styles” motif depicting windows, doorways and bridges.

The panel will launch a series of focus groups, tasked with gathering opinions from people across the euro area on possible themes for the future notes.

Christine Lagarde, president of the ECB, said euro banknotes were “here to stay” despite an increase in cashless payments during the coronavirus pandemic.

“They are a tangible and visible symbol that we stand together in Europe, particularly in times of crisis, and there is still a strong demand for them,” she said. “After 20 years, it’s time to review the look of our banknotes to make them more relatable to Europeans of all ages and backgrounds.”

The process will mark the first big overhaul of the imagery used on the euro banknotes since the currency started circulating in physical form in 2002, when notes ranging from €5 to €500 replaced the currencies of 12 member states including the French franc, German mark and Italian lira.

Windows, doorways and bridges had been selected to symbolise the spirit of European openness, cooperation and communication.

Membership of the eurozone has increased to 19 nations, with Lithuania the most recent in 2015. A fresh look was given to the banknotes in 2013 to include more up-to-date security features, including a watermark portrait of the Greek goddess Europa, although the original “ages and styles” theme remained. The €500 note was not included in the new “Europa” series.

Unlike banknotes, euro coins have a standardised obverse side, as well as a reverse image for each member state with a specific national depiction – such as Mozart for Austria, a Celtic harp for Ireland, and an eagle surrounded by the stars of Europe for Germany.

The redesign process for the banknotes will require agreement from the ECB’s governing council, which represents each of the 19 member states, in a potentially lengthy process.

The ECB said the advisory panel tasked with developing new themes had been appointed based on proposals from euro area national central banks, and was drawn from diverse fields such as history, natural and social sciences, the visual arts and technology.

Once it has put forward proposals for a new theme, it will call on the public for their input on the shortlisted ideas. A design competition for the new banknotes will then follow, after which the ECB will again consult the public. The central bank’s governing council will take the final decision.

“We want to develop euro banknotes that European citizens can identify with and will be proud to use as their money,” said Fabio Panetta, an ECB executive board member.

“The process to redesign the euro banknotes will run in parallel with our investigation on a digital euro. Both projects aim to fulfil our mandate of providing safe and secure money to Europeans.”


Richard Partington Economics correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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