The euro (pronounced YUR-oh ) is now the official monetary unit of 12 member nations of the European Union. First introduced on January 1, 1999, and phased in over a three-year period, the euro was seen as a necessary step toward a European common market. It is intended to make trade more efficient, make price comparisons easier, and stabilize interest rates overall. Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain are European Union member nations that have accepted the euro as their official currency. Britain, Denmark, and Sweden are not using the euro but may decide to join later.
For tourists, the euro provides a common, transportable and minimally confusing currency in traveling from country to country. The euro now exists not only in bank account form but in paper and coin currency as well. Traveller's checks for euros can be purchased. Meanwhile, many computer business applications involving accounting or sums of money have been updated. The total cost to business is said to have been considerable, perhaps a third of the cost of the 2000 problem.
In terms of trading, the euro is expected to help stabilize the European economy as a whole. The 12 countries using the euro represent over 290 million people. European financial markets now quote stocks, bonds, and mutual funds in euros. Public debts are also expressed in euros. Euros are now the only currency traded against other world currencies, such as the dollar and the Japanese yen. Many stock market and finance Web sites post the latest exchange rates.