Euro unveiled in Prague

The Euro was officially unveiled in the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Among those who took part in the launch was Michal Tomasek of the Czech Banks Association. I asked Mr. Tomasek what effect he thought the introduction of the Euro would have on the Czech Republic.

"I think there will be an immediate impact from January 1 because German marks and Austrian schillings are very commonly used foreign currencies and we suppose that this usage of Euro will increase even after January - my estimate is that the Euro is going to be the second currency of this country"

And what about the Czech Republic's economy as a whole - what, if any, impact will the introduction of the new currency have on the Czech economy?

"I think the introduction of Euro notes and coins won't have any impact on the Czech economy because the Euro as a non-cash currency exists from January 1, 1999 and the first impacts on the economic performances and on everything have been already noted then."

The Czech Republic hopes to join the European Union in 2004. How many more years will it be before Czechs have Euros in their pockets?

"According to the EU treaty the country needs at least two years to join the EMU (European Monetary Union) after joining the European Monetary System and you can join the Monetary System only when you are an EU member, so simply, theoretically, two years after joining the EU. But I am not that optimistic because the budget deficit, which is increasing, in my opinion will not permit us to join that early - so I think we can join about 2008, 2010."

Unfortunately, I wasn't given any Euros to take home - I mean to the Radio Prague office, but I can tell you that they're quite small - and the coins have national languages on one side - so one side of the coin is the same across the Eurozone and the other side says Ein Euro or whatever.