January 3rd, 2012
01:18 PM ET

Zakaria: Happy (?) 10th birthday to the euro

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By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

There's a big birthday to note today taking place on the other side of the pond. The celebrant is 10 years old. But sadly the youngster doesn't seem to be in much of a mood for a party today.

Ten years ago, the euro bank note was born. And to mark the occasion, the embattled European Central Bank spent some of its precious euros to make a video.  You can see an excerpt in the video above, where the narrator says, "Europe builds bridges and inspires hope. It enables its people to look to the future with confidence."

Really? Hope, confidence? Has the ECB been reading the same news I have? The video goes on to tout the bills themselves. The narrator says, "... placed end to end, the 14.9 billion bank notes produced for the changeover could have stretched to the moon and back five times over."

Quite impressive. But have you ever looked at any of those 14.9 billion euro notes? They are the epitome of the problem of design by committee. In order to come up with the designs that were sure not to offend any member countries, the bills depict no statesman and no landmarks - no identifiable anything. The bridges on the back of the bills don't exist anywhere, nor do the architectural fragments on the front.

Anyway, happy birthday, euro; may you have a long and healthy life so that you stop causing global economic panics.

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Topics: Europe • GPS Show • Last Look

soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. pmcdonald

    What a wonderful opportunity they have to turn the crisis into closer political union..... that includes perpetual fiscal transfer mechanisms...whilst minimizing these through a bunch of conditions placed on the periphery to allow growth whilst keeping wages in line with productivity and running manageably small cyclical deficits. No wonder they are causing market panic. It will be an amazing achievement since it seems impossible today. Which is why they need to cause distress and panic and why it will take months if not years for the politics to allow it. But what a wonderful opportunity.

    January 3, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Reply
  2. David

    Are you jealous that we have such a stable currency. After all, it's currently worth about 1.30 dollars and has been stable for years and years.

    If you are so smart (which I am starting to doubt) you would understand that debt and currency are 2 different things.
    The US has much more debt than Europe.
    Are you going to abandon the dollar because you have too much debt??

    January 3, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Reply
    • Matt V

      Not so fast, honey.

      "Smart" people know that there are few nice options for Greece right now. A split could have a domino effect on countries like Spain, Ireland and may worst case Italy. This would most DEFINITELY affect the CURRENCY. People would see it as unstable and euro zone countries would be in a real jam. Study up on this before you make statements you no nothing about.

      January 3, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Reply
    • Dungeonmaster

      the euro is great and strong huh? $1.30 to the euro, at the rate it is currently FALLING W/in 2-3 years it will be tied/ weaker then the dollar, early 2011 it was 1.45 to the euro. it ended at 1.30 thats a big drop in a single year. now it is struggling to stay at 1.30

      January 4, 2012 at 10:55 am | Reply
    • Eurotrash

      Apparently you being so excited about the Euro has made you overlook the issues of insolvency with several of your members. good luck with that.

      January 4, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Reply
    • Martin

      David, you're insane.

      You're calling the EURO a stable currency? You're off your rocker, mate.

      January 5, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Reply
    • Bill

      I think the euro was worth about $1.50 a few years ago so it has lost a lot of value. Now the pound, on the other hand, is a stable currency, but then the English don't have the PIIGS dragging it down.

      January 5, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Reply
  3. Pat

    Happy birthday euro! I'm sure you will live on to see many more no matter what all the doubters say.

    January 3, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  4. j. von hettlingen

    Fareed, it's not true that the Euro notes and coins don't disclose an identifiable trait of the Eurozone states. I don't use Euro where I live, but I happen to have two notes from Greece. I have never been there myself, On the banknotes, there's the word "Euro" in Roman alphabet and in Greek. If you look closely at the coins, you'll see initials like RF for French Republic, RI for Italy, Espana for Spain etc. Leonard da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man" is seen on Italian coins and the Brandenburger Gate on German coins etc, etc.

    January 3, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Hi, Amar, Fareed and others. Happy New Year to you all.
      2012 will be another interesting year and your program is the highlight of international editorialism. Keep up with your good work!

      January 4, 2012 at 4:33 am | Reply
  5. Scott

    Too bad it was destined to die young.

    January 3, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Reply
    • Su5

      I think so, too. Old design was better, but we will get used to seeing new design.

      January 5, 2012 at 1:21 am | Reply
  6. Alsace

    Just take a look at http://www.eurocoins.co.uk/images1euros.html
    There is a lively market for collectors who want to have all European effigies on the Euro coins etc. It displays a much larger spectrum of cultural diversity than the monolithic molten pot dollar. Challenges yes, downfall: No way!

    January 3, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Reply
  7. Mirco

    "may you have a long and healthy life so that you stop causing global economic panics." now the world crisis is Euro's fault?..everybody have forgotten all the bank's disasters?

    January 3, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Reply
  8. Simon

    Happy birthday euro! I remember you being created in the beautiful city of Maastricht, Netherlands. I hope you will live on for another 10 years to prove to the world this was and is the only way to prosperity in Europe. I don't care there's no statesman on your front or an existing bridge on your back. You're not like the American dollar (where apparently fantasy is prohibited), you're unique.

    January 3, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Reply
  9. Tom

    apart from the fact that the crisis was caused by the us and the dollar, i wonder what the euro has done to make cnn so angry.

    January 3, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Reply
  10. Jeroen

    Fareed sounds like a whining little kid who is annoyed that a new currency, of which a lot of folks in the US thought it would never make it in the first place, is still there after ten years. It's also worth a lot more than when it was launched and it's value has increased compared to the US $ during the 10 years of it's existance. That's pretty impressive for a new currency; the markets must still have "some" faith in this new currency. Yes, Europe is in crisis but so is the US. It's just that the focus is on Europe right now. Only a few months ago it was on the US with all the bickering about raising the debt-ceiling. And, hey, you don't need to raise the debt-ceiling when things are going really well in your country.
    And then another thing: Fareed seems to be so interested in how the Euro banknotes look. Well, lets grab 5 banknotes of 10 US $ and compare them with eachother and have a closer look at how they are actually printed. You will find that not one of them is exactly the same. Extremely crappy printwork, back and front do not align at all, etc, etc. You get the point: no wonder that so many US $ are forged.
    Now do the same thing with 5 banknotes of 10 Euro's (Yes, Fareed: those "crappy" notes with those non-identifiable architectural objects). Hey...they are all the same. And I mean EXACTLY the same. And those stupid European designers also built in all kinds of stuff to prevent crooks from forging the Euro's.
    Well Fareed, maybe you should take a close look at your own currency next time before bashing someone else's.
    Just my 2 cents...

    January 3, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Reply
  11. Arthur Mend

    Well, it is clear that for Europe to grow again in a sustainable way fiscal equilibrium must be restablished and the euro must depreciate further, check it here: http://flexiblemanager.wordpress.com/2011/12/23/relative-prices-and-economic-growth/

    January 3, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Reply
  12. patod

    i was in europe when the euro was distributed. europeans don't change easily and because of historical incluences, they weren't thrilled with sharing a currency with certain other countries. personally, i am not sure the euro is such a fantastic idea - although it does make it easier to travel from one country to another without having to change currency, it will inevitable put the burden on the richer countries to continuously bail out the poorer, less productive countries (see recent news reports).
    the euro has succeeded so far, but with the EU having taken in so many countries who really cannot afford to pay their own way (aren't now and never were), let's see how much farther down the road it will have value. Imagine if the German public decides it does not want to pay the way of these poorer countries - then that same euro will not be such a grand scheme.
    also, not sure that there isn't some clever person out there who isn't working right now on a way to forge the euro. personally, i never minded the look of the euro and actually liked the coins a lot. since i enjoy spending in any currency, i don't think i really looked that closely at the euro - now i will.

    January 4, 2012 at 10:42 am | Reply
    • Jeroen

      Hi Patod.
      Largely agree with you and, yes, the European goal seems to be to make as many European countries part of the Single Currency Unit whether they are financially ready for it or not. We now witness what it leads to....
      And the Euro banknotes have already been forged, according to what we are hearing in the news. It's just that it happens on a rather small scale because, luckily, it is very hard to forge.
      Good thing that the newer (colored) US $'s also have extra features added that I'm sure will make forging a harder job!

      January 4, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Reply
  13. jrp

    I have a lot of respect for Zakaria and agree with many of the truths he says and his style of expressing them, but sorry, blatantly stating that things don't exist when they do? The Euro has major issues, not its banknote design (trivial, to say the most), and a very very weak argument relating to national pride. Let me google that for you, Fareed: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=Pont+du+Gard (The 5 Euro note)

    Sometimes pundits, especially intelligent and witty ones, should stick to being intelligent and witty, and not insulting.

    January 4, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Reply
  14. jrp

    Sorry, I misphrased that. I should have written "modelled on", not "exist". It's a symbol of heritage and history. It's got nothing to do with a currency or economics. Why link it?

    January 4, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Reply
  15. Goodguy1

    The Euro was a farce dreamed up by big banks to take some off the top and then dump Europe into crisis, then gobble up the little countries that are broke.

    January 4, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Reply
  16. history99

    This is a good article. However Euro is just a tool of economy. The future of Euro is also decided by the future of Europe.

    Europe is most sullying continent on violating morality in a real world history. Ten millions of African black people were held in bondage by European, and 1/3 of them were tortured to lose life in Europe's ships, now dishonest words are spoken; apology and compensation have not done.

    January 4, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Reply
    • GitReal

      This kind of neo-racist rancor from sour belinfante types is what makes it absolutely clear: the billions of dollars my country spent on Africa during the last fifty years were absolutely spent in vain. Go complain with the Ghanese tribes that sold your ancestors in the first place. Or blame the Moroccans for elaborating on the idea of selling persons in the 16th-17th century. Furthermore, chances are high (10%) that your own ancestors played a not-so-ethical role as foremen on a plantation.

      January 5, 2012 at 9:11 am | Reply
      • Auth

        >Let me know when you get that set up! I love your artwork. The samlpe is brilliant. Just an FYI, MIGs is soon (17th!) so if you'd still like me to put up some posters, we may have to start coordinating that asap.

        July 11, 2012 at 5:27 am |
  17. history99

    Europe also lost conscience to invade other countries for stealing resources; ten millions of people were bullied, especially on Africa and Indian peninsula; but apology and compensation have not done.

    However every suffering African or Asian country should get apology and compensation (US$ 25-125 trillion) from the European countries for justice and children's education. Suffering countries should fight for justice continually.

    Europe also is dirtiest continent on per person emission for green house gas. Now it is time for Europe and Euro both to decline, and let the historical truth to be appeared.

    January 4, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Reply
  18. Notislam

    islam, socialism, communism and nazism are all evil.

    January 5, 2012 at 8:01 am | Reply
    • Meestor Yay

      What in gods name does that have to with the Euro? Tards...

      January 5, 2012 at 10:36 am | Reply
  19. S-

    I hope the Euro folds up. I have had enough of the arrogant people over there.

    January 5, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Reply
    • Jean Sartre

      NO ONE in in the EU is as arrogant, loud-mouthed, demanding, and ignorant as any American who visits...

      January 5, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Reply
      • Hahahahahaha

        Does the name Hitler ring a bell? Hahahahahahahahaha.

        January 5, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  20. God is great

    I don't like it because it does not say "IN GOD WE TRUST" as in U.S. dollar !

    January 5, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Reply
    • Jeroen

      Adding phrases like "In God we trust" would make it less neutral and might offend non-religious people. Not everybody is religious, you know.
      But let's not turn this into a religious discussion.

      January 5, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Reply
  21. Hahahahahaha

    It won't see 20!!!!!!!!!!!! Hahahahahahahahaha.

    January 5, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Reply
  22. Andrey

    I like Zakaria mentioning these 14.9 billion euro notes – I want one, not just look on it! It probably will be royal pain to get it accepted in a store: "sorry, we are short of change".... Well, I can understand that! Here: take 21.5 Euro and 13.3 thousand Euro notes...
    These liberals in charge of Euro Union are raving mad! I will not be surprised!

    January 5, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Reply
  23. paulo

    Its a funny, to say the least, statment, coming from somebody living with a none existing currency, the USD.

    Happy New Year

    January 6, 2012 at 6:53 am | Reply

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