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Euro information strategy: final stages of implementing EMU

Euro information strategy: final stages of implementing EMU

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Euro information strategy: final stages of implementing EMU

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These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Economic and monetary affairs > Practical aspects of introducing the euro

Euro information strategy: final stages of implementing EMU

The Commission is updating its priorities and strategies for the euro information campaign. In doing so, it reconfirms its commitment to the euro campaign.

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 2 February 2000 on communications strategy in the last phases of the completion of EMU [COM (2000) 57 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

Eleven Member States adopted the euro as their official currency on 1 January 1999, the date set by the Treaty on European Union. The transition period, during which the euro can be used only as scriptural (non-cash) money, will end at midnight on 31 December 2001. From that date, banks will issue only euro notes and coins. Member States will make their best efforts to ensure that the bulk of cash transactions will be made in euro by the end of a fortnight from 1 January. The period of dual circulation must be short so that the withdrawal of national notes and coins is complete by the beginning of March 2002.

The Commission has been conducting a very active information campaign on the euro since 1995. In 1998, it announced its commitment to the information campaign by adopting a communication on the information strategy for the euro. The campaign was allocated a large budget under the PRINCE programme (information programme for the European citizen). Parliament has consistently backed the efforts made by the Commission.

The Commission has also given high priority to partnering multiplier organisations and has endeavoured at the same time to encourage Member States to conduct their own information campaigns. As a result, free phones, special internet sites and exhibitions have been set up in several Member States. The purpose of all these measures has been to raise the awareness of certain target audiences and provide them with information.
Private-sector information providers have also been very diligent in their efforts to raise awareness among small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

When the changeover to the euro took place, it was found that the general public was tending to forget the information that had bee disseminated. Very few businesses have converted their accounting over to the euro, whilst most SMEs have not yet taken the necessary steps to use the euro. On the other hand, dual pricing displays are being provided across a wide spectrum of retailing and service activities.

PRIORITIES

On the basis of these findings, the Commission has decided to refocus its policy for 2000 and 2001.

To ensure that the campaign meets with complete success, the Commission and the information authorities of the Member States have defined the principles that will help to achieve that target:

  • definition of clear, specific objectives for each target group;
  • application of the principle of subsidiarity and promotion of measures taken by Member States;
  • subsidiarity leads to proximity. The information is more likely to be taken seriously if it comes from the regional and local authorities rather than from remote organisations. Proximity, however, means committing the necessary human resources to act as contact points;
  • cooperation between all the actors involved, both national and European (European Central Bank, Committee of the Regions, Economic and Social Committee). Such cooperation calls for very tight coordination;
  • flexibility is needed to assess the results of the information campaign and, if necessary, review the procedures.

TARGET GROUPS

All businesses in the euro area will have to use the euro for their transactions from 1 January 2002. According to studies carried out, most Community businesses do not have any detailed strategy for the changeover. There is a risk that thousands of firms will attempt to change over to the euro at the last minute, causing problems for consumers and indeed for the whole euro area economy.

The aim is to persuade businesses to plan the changeover to the euro, to draw up a timetable, to provide for the necessary human resources and to prepare a budget.

Certain types of business will need closer monitoring, such as small firms, small retailers, firms in tourist or outlying areas, and firms in pre-in countries.

Local or regional authorities are better able to stimulate information channels that are “closer” to firms, such as consultants, accountants and the large companies that work with SMEs.

As regards the timetable, the information campaign will be intensive throughout 2000 and will be reviewed in 2001.

The general public

The general public must also be well prepared for the transition to the euro. It must be able to recognise the different coins and notes and be familiar with prices and values expressed in euros.

Research has shown that people have already forgotten some of the information they received in previous information campaigns. It therefore seems appropriate to:

  • remind consumers why the European Union adopted the euro;
  • reassure people that, even after the dual circulation period, old banknotes will retain their value;
  • continue initiatives such as the logo “payment in euros accepted” and monitor their use;
  • set up and strengthen local observatories for the euro.

The general public should continue to be informed throughout 2000 about all the advantages that the euro will bring to economic life and to their daily lives. In 2001, however, the information campaign will have to be intensified so that the public is ready to use the euro.

Groups in need of special help

The information strategy must be adapted to the needs of certain specific population groups which do not have access to the traditional channels of information, such as:

  • persons suffering from economic and social marginalisation;
  • persons who are socially isolated;
  • persons suffering from physical disabilities (blind, visually impaired, deaf or aurally impaired) or mental disabilities;
  • persons who are illiterate.

The messages to these groups will remain the same as those addressed to the general public but in a form adapted to their needs.

In 2000 information actions started in 1999 will be continued and 2001 will see the culmination of the campaign.

Schoolchildren

The euro was introduced in schools at the beginning of the school year in September 1999. This is a very important target group since it can serve as an information channel, with young people helping to pass on the information to those around them (parents, the elderly, etc.). The 2000 school year will be the last chance to launch new initiatives.

“Pre-in” countries and third countries

The “pre-in” countries, which have not yet adopted the euro, (Denmark, the United Kingdom and Sweden) are also a target group because of their strong links with Member States that are part of the euro area.

For third countries, economic and trade ties and the presence of the euro as a major currency for financial markets are reasons for continuing and intensifying the euro information effort.

BENCHMARKING PROGRESS

The Commission suggests that indicators and benchmarks be fixed in order to help Member States to measure progress being made by their communications activities. The public-sector and the private-sector indicators should be harmonised.

COMMUNICATIONS ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

The role of the European Parliament is fundamental to the definition, assessment and implementation of the euro communication strategy, and also for the allocation of appropriations.

The principle of subsidiarity means that the main responsibility for communicating on the euro lies with Member States. Most have already prepared an information strategy.

The Commission will for its part will continue to inform businesses, the general public, tourists and third countries, and will coordinate the activities of all the other actors.

In 1999 the European Central Bank (ECB) launched a major information campaign, the “Euro 2002”, which will reach its climax at the end of 2001. The campaign is aimed at the general public, businesses, the public authorities and various information multipliers. Its aims are to:

  • help the public to recognise and prepare for the introduction of euro coins and banknotes;
  • show retailers and banks how to detect possible counterfeits.

Reference

Act Date
of entry into force
Deadline for implementation in the Member States
COM(2000) 57 final

Economic and Financial Committee

Economic and Financial Committee

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Economic and Financial Committee

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Economic and monetary affairs > Institutional and economic framework of the euro

Economic and Financial Committee

Acts

Council Decision 98/743/EC of 21 December 1998 on the detailed provisions concerning the composition of the Economic and Financial Committee.
Council Decision 1999/8/EC of 31 December 1998 adopting the Statutes of the Economic and Financial [See amending acts].

Summary

The Maastricht Treaty provides for an economic and financial committee to be set up at the start of the third stage of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), which began on 1 January 1999.

Composition and tasks of the Economic and Financial Committee

The Council is to adopt detailed provisions concerning the composition of the Committee, bearing in mind that the Member States, the Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB), are each to appoint two members of the Committee. They may also appoint two alternate members.

Under Article 114 (2) and (4) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (EC Treaty), the Committee’s tasks are:

  • to keep under review the economic and financial situation of the Member States and the Community and to report regularly to the Council and the Commission on this subject, in particular on financial relations with third countries and international institutions;
  • to contribute to the preparation of the work of the Council, particularly as regards recommendations required as part of multilateral surveillance (Article 99) and decisions required as part of the excessive deficit procedure (Article 101).

The Committee may also prepare the Council’s reviews of the exchange rate of the euro (Article 207). It may be consulted in the procedure leading to decisions relating to the exchange-rate mechanism of the third stage of Economic and Monetary Union (ERM II), and may provide the framework for the dialogue between the Council and the ECB at the level of senior officials from ministries, national central banks, the Commission and the ECB.

Given the importance of those tasks, it is essential that members of the Committee and alternate members be selected from among experts possessing outstanding competence in the economic and financial field. The two members appointed by each Member State must be selected from among senior officials from the administration (ministerial level) and the national central bank.

Adapting the Economic and Financial Committee in the light of EU enlargement

With a view to the enlargement of the EU on 1 May 2004, the statutes of the Economic and Financial Committee were amended in 2003. A new Article 4 was inserted, which provides for the Committee to meet in two different configurations:

  • either with the members selected from the administrations, the national central banks, the Commission and the ECB;
  • or with the members from administrations, the Commission and the ECB.

The Committee in its full composition will regularly review the list of the issues on which the national central bank members are expected to attend the meetings. This measure is necessary in order to ensure that the expertise and analytical insight of the national central banks are available to the Committee without its work being hampered by too many participants.

Taking decisions on a majority basis

If a vote is requested, decisions are to be adopted by a majority of the members but, in the case of questions on which the “Economic and Financial Affairs” Council (Ecofin Council) may subsequently take a decision, members from national central banks and the Commission will not participate in the vote. The Committee will also report on minority or dissenting views expressed in the course of the discussion. A member who is unable to attend a meeting of the Committee may delegate his/her right to vote to one of the alternates or another member.

The Committee has a President elected by a majority of its members. The two-year term of office is renewable. The President represents the Committee, including in its relations with the European Parliament. The President’s voting right is delegated to his/her alternate and, if indisposed, the President is replaced by the Vice-President of the Committee.

Where alternates replace members, they have the right to vote. As a general rule, alternate members may attend committee meetings, but do not vote or participate in discussions. The Committee may decide to amend this.

The Committee is convened at the initiative of the President, or at the request of the Commission, the Council or four of its members.

Committee deliberations are confidential.

The Committee may entrust the study of specific questions to its alternate members, to subcommittees or to working parties. It is also assisted by a secretariat.

References

Act Entry into force and expiry date Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Decision 98/743/EC 1.1.1999 OJ L 358, 31.12.1998
Decision 1999/8/EC 1.1.1999 OJ L 5, 9.1.1999
Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Decision 2003/476/EC 01.07.2003 OJ L 158, 27.6.2003