Thank you very much for inviting me to participate in this Euro 2002 Information Campaign conference, hosted this time by the Central Bank of Ireland, on the eve of this year's first Governing Council meeting outside Frankfurt. It is the fifth of a series of conferences on the euro cash changeover in the course of 2001. These conferences are being organised and hosted by the national central banks of the 12 euro area Members States and take place in the context of the Euro 2002 Information Campaign. Four conferences have already taken place, in Brussels, Madrid, Lisbon and Frankfurt. The next conference will be organised by the Oesterreichische Nationalbank on 29 June. The objective of these conferences is, again and again in each country, to raise citizens' awareness of the cash changeover at the beginning of 2002 and to prepare them for it. They bring together the key parties involved in the euro cash changeover process, both at the national and at the European level, with a view to focusing on the cash changeover preparations.
The introduction of euro banknotes and coins is an unprecedented logistical challenge for all the parties involved; 14.25 billion banknotes and around 50 billion coins have to be produced. The banknotes and coins have to be distributed. The ECB, together with the national central banks of the euro area, aims to contribute to making this exercise as smooth as possible. The ECB has decided that the frontloading and sub-frontloading of euro banknotes and coins can start as of 1 September 2001. Frontloading is the advance distribution of euro banknotes and coins to those credit institutions that are counterparties for monetary policy operations within the Eurosystem. Credit institutions can sub-frontload euro banknotes and coins to professional groups (retailers, cash-in-transit companies, cash-operated machine industry), provided that certain conditions are fulfilled.
Each national central bank is free to decide on the specific date on which frontloading and sub-frontloading can start at the national level in order adequately to meet their respective national needs, provided, of course, that it does not happen before 1 September 2001.
When speaking about the euro changeover, we should bear in mind that the principles of subsidiarity and decentralisation apply. Although the ECB has endorsed some general principles and practices in order to ensure a level playing field from a competition perspective, it is necessary to check the specific national changeover scenarios in order to have complete and detailed information. All countries have acknowledged the need to frontload banks with both euro banknotes and coins prior to 1 January 2002. This is a prerequisite for a smooth and fast changeover.
The ECOFIN Council has agreed that the general public could be sub-frontloaded with euro coins, starting in the second half of December 2001.
Most participating countries have already decided to do so, or are in the process of doing so. In Ireland, the so-called "starter kits" of euro coins with a value of IEP 5 will be available to the general public as of 17 December 2001. It has also been decided not to frontload euro banknotes to the general public. The risks of counterfeiting and the confusion as a result of this measure are perceived to be too great. Moreover, the need for frontloading banknotes is less urgent than in the case of coins, as there is no established distribution mechanism in place for the latter. In any case, measures are being taken to ensure that there will be no shortages of euro banknotes in the first days after the changeover.
It is sometimes forgotten that the euro has already been in existence as a currency since 1 January 1999. The euro is already OUR money. Therefore, whenever we pay in cash with current banknotes, we are actually already paying in euro. However, owing to the lengthy preparations needed to produce the new high-quality euro banknotes and coins, we are still obliged to use the current national banknotes. This, mainly psychological, drawback will disappear on 1 January 2002.
The euro banknotes and coins will be easy to use throughout the euro area, will make our lives easier and will be visible proof that we, the 300 million euro area citizens, have a common currency.
It is crucial that we do our best to make sure that the euro banknotes and coins are well received by citizens. The quick acceptance by the general public will very much depend on our ability to communicate with "our" population on "our" money. If we succeed, we will make an important contribution to convincing Europeans that a unified Europe is not an abstract and remote idea, but something real and dynamic. The success of the euro cash changeover will largely depend on the information the euro area citizens receive on their new money. This will help them to cope with the cash changeover. It will also help some of them become accustomed to denominations that differ from those they are familiar with.
In this respect, the two following points are important:
the co-operation of all the professional parties directly involved - such as banks, retailers, cash-in-transit companies and vending machine operators - and
the quick acceptance of the new banknotes by the public.
Therefore, the Governing Council of the ECB has embarked on the preparation of an information campaign. It has a budget of EUR 80 million. We have the support of Publicis, the communication agency we have selected to work with us on this crucial project, and the national central banks of the euro area implement the information campaign on a decentralised basis.
Our campaign addresses all users of the euro banknotes and coins. These also include users from outside the euro area, such as tourists, travellers and nationals from countries where the euro banknotes and coins will circulate widely as a parallel currency. In order to reach such a broad public, the information campaign uses relevant groups or institutions as partners or "multipliers". In that context, banks, retailers, educational institutions, the tourism industry and the media can be mentioned.
I should like to highlight the key role these partners have played and are still doing so - today, in particular, the partners of the Euro 2002 Information Campaign in Ireland. All of them are contributing to this mammoth communication effort by conveying information on the euro banknotes and coins to their staff, customers or other target groups.
In addition, I would also like to stress that the media receives particular attention under the campaign concept. For the media, we have developed a series of six different media kits to be distributed to more than 3,000 media representatives throughout the euro area and beyond in the course of 2001. The latest media kit, the E-200 or 200 days to go to E-day, which focuses on the production of the euro banknotes and coins and on the changeover modalities, has just been released. A copy of this kit is also available at today's conference. Furthermore, we are paying particular attention within the campaign to vulnerable groups who need and will receive tailor-made information and training as well as to children.
Our information campaign is being co-ordinated with other campaigns prepared by national authorities and the European Commission. It can thus be considered a "specialised" campaign. The message of our Campaign concentrates on four main issues:
the detailed visual appearance of the euro banknotes and coins;
their main security features;
the denominations of the euro banknotes and coins; and
the changeover modalities.
Although our information campaign, and particularly our communication with the media and our co-operation with partners, was already started months ago, an advertising campaign focusing mainly on the details of the euro banknotes and coins cannot start too early. It would be very difficult and costly to try to keep the public's attention over a long period of time. Moreover, the euro banknotes and coins contain highly sophisticated security features. They will be new for the citizens in many euro area countries. In order to limit the risks of counterfeiting, the security features and other details of the euro banknotes should not be unveiled too early.
The ECB will unveil the visual appearance of the euro banknotes and their security features to the public at a press conference on 30 August 2001 in Frankfurt, shortly before the euro banknotes are frontloaded to banks on 1 September 2001. This information will also be made available to be accessed world-wide via the Euro 2002 Information Campaign website.
On 1 March, I informed the media of the slogan of our campaign. It is "the EURO. OUR money". The slogan has been chosen for all deliverables of the campaign, especially for the advertisements to be developed for the autumn of this year and the beginning of 2002.
In line with the communication strategy I have just outlined, the bulk of the information campaign, in particular the mass media part, will be visible during the last months of this year and the first weeks of 2002. The dissemination of the information will continue in the first weeks of 2002, when the changeover will be taking place and when the public will have the euro banknotes and coins in their hands and pockets. The public will then be in the best position to understand and assimilate the information received.
I am fully aware of the fact that, among the general public in the euro area, there is sometimes still a feeling of there being a lack of information concerning the introduction of the euro banknotes and coins. However, let me emphasise that the citizens of the euro area should be confident that they will receive detailed information at the appropriate moment.
Let me now turn to the ECB itself, the still young but already 36 1/2 months old central bank, currently responsible for, among other things, the monetary policy for 12 countries and 300 million Europeans. The public sometimes tends to reduce the complex activity of any one institution to a very simple concept. The ECB's tasks are really complex, involving monetary policy decisions, statistics, monetary policy operations, payment systems, legal issues, etc.
However, its main task is defined in a very clear mandate laid down in the Treaty establishing the European Community, which is to maintain price stability in the euro area; in other words, it must safeguard the value of the euro banknotes and coins and keep inflation under control. All these activities are often relatively unknown and not very clear to the man in the street. He or she will tend, in a few months time, to identify the ECB and the national central banks of the euro area with the single image of the euro banknotes. The euro banknotes will be seen as the face of the ECB and the national central banks. The euro, our currency, and the ECB, our central bank, will be identified by the public with these banknotes.
I am fully aware of the fact that representatives of professional parties involved in the euro cash changeover are attending this conference. Allow me to conclude by thanking you all for your great efforts, your understanding and your co-operation in making this remarkable historic moment happen.
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