The euro turns 25. The single European currency in fact saw the light on January 1, 1999although at first it was only a virtual currency, used only for accounting purposes and for electronic payments. Coins and banknotes arrived only three years later, on January 1, 2002. However, the leaders of the European Union choose this symbolic date to take stock and, in an open letter published in the media of the 20 countries that currently use the single currency, they praise its many virtues.
«The euro – they write – has become an indispensable part of our daily lives, giving us simplicity, stability and sovereignty». But the work is not finished, on the contrary. The old world today finds itself having to face new challenges, geopolitical, economic and climatic, and the answer must be found in increasingly close and ambitious cooperation, therefore following the example of those who, after the Second World War, were able to imagine paths new, like those that led to the single currency. «Europe’s raison d’être has always been based on the solution of problems that countries could not face alone», argue in the letter Charles Michel (President of the European Council), Paschal Donohoe (President of the Eurogroup), Christine Lagarde (President of the European Central Bank), Roberta Metsola (President of the European Parliament) and Ursula von der Leyen (President of the European Commission). We therefore started with the convergence of economies and then, at a later stage, of currencies, “to make the most of the economic benefits created by this peace dividend”. Of course, such a strong choice – born following the decisions taken in Maastricht in 1991 – was not without complicated phases, including “doubts” about the very future of the euro, as at the time of the debt crisis in 2011. “But every time we found the right answers, such as the harmonized system for the supervision and resolution of banking crises or the European Stability Mechanism (ESM)”, they further note. «And today support for the single currency among euro area citizens is close to record levels. But our work is not finished. Because we are faced with new challenges that EU countries cannot face alone and citizens look to Europe to find answers.” Here the discussion broadens. In fact, the economy is no longer just an internal factor, where work still needs to be done, for example by building “an authentic capital markets union” that embraces the continent to mobilize private financing, “a more solid” and “preparing the foundations for a potential digital euro that can integrate cash”. The challenges of our time range from the war in Ukraine, which encompasses the sphere of security and defense, “to the acceleration of the climate crisis”, to the risks “for our competitiveness due to the energy and industrial policies of other parts of the world”. That is China and the USA. In short, the euro has been a success but more needs to be done. “European citizens know that the world is changing and they know that unity is strength: around two thirds of Europeans are convinced that the EU is a bastion of stability”, conclude the EU leaders. “Let us show them that Europe can give shape to this change and satisfy their expectations”, is the appeal they launch to the capitals of the euro area, but not only. Because in the end it will be the nation states that decide whether to continue with the experiment or reduce ambitions.