Paris — Two decades ago the euro was launched, at first existing virtually for accounting and financial transactions, then three years later as notes and coins. Here is a recap of its defining moments. Conversion rate On December 31 1998, on the eve of the euro launch as planned in the EU’s Maastricht Treaty, the definitive conversion rates are revealed to great fanfare in Brussels: one euro will buy 1.95583 Deutsche marks, 6.55957 French francs and 1.936,27 Italian lire. Tens of thousands of people in banks and European stock exchanges immediately get to work to ensure everything is ready and in place when markets re-open on January 4. Shops that displayed prices in both currencies with approximate exchange rates update their tags. Official currency On January 1 1999. the euro becomes the official currency for 291-million people in 11 countries: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. The new money can be used for...

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