Design of Europe's Banknotes Panned as 'Funny Money'

Article excerpt

The proposed banknote design of Europe's single currency, the euro, has done more to unite the Continent than many policy decisions in recent past. From London to Athens, the cry is: "Yuck!"

While there are those who like the design, and others who don't care, the critics of the new currency's looks are especially vocal.

The new notes, which will hit the streets by Jan. 1, 2002, have "the look of something makeshift prepared in a hurry by an ex-people's republic struggling to rid its currency of the iconography of Stalinism," says London-based design critic Deyan Sudjic. One source of criticism is the tiny space allocated to a national symbol of choice. For the British, the tiny space on the back of the bills would be occupied by a picture of Queen Elizabeth II. The problem is that her picture is lost among the bridges, windows, gateways, maps, and other features the designers have used for their main decoration. The unveiling of the notes has literally added substance to the debate about a single European currency which, in Britain, is especially acute. All British banknotes, as well as stamps, prominently feature the queen's head. The queen herself is said by Buckingham Palace sources to be "still studying" the new euro banknotes unveiled at the European Union summit in Dublin this month. The same sources are indicating that Her Majesty is "not amused," and Prime Minister John Major has pledged to try to put matters right. Reflecting the mainly negative British response to the new currency, Mr. Major said he was "not any more enthusiastic or keen about it than I am about the name, the euro." Major, under pressure from "Euroskeptics" to declare himself against a single European currency, has been quoted as saying privately that it "ought to be called 'the dodo,' " the same name as an ungainly and flightless bird, now extinct. This same lack of enthusiasm for the brightly colored notes that come in seven denominations ranging from five euros to 500 has been echoed across Europe. Several EU nations have had their pride dented as well. In Greece, the local media were swift to notice that the designers had chopped off several Greek islands, such as Crete, in the southern Mediterranean. In Madrid, eyebrows shot up when people realized that Spain's Balearic Isles find no place on the notes. …

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