Euro knocks on Europe's door
With the release of the euro less than a month away, European countries prepare for the new money.
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"People don't throw money away," says Ms. Jacobs, a marketing consultant who says she launched her charity drive "so as to do something right for once, to create something positive out of something negative."Skip to next paragraph
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So Ms. Jacobs's "Coins for Care" organization is encouraging people to throw their coins into 10,000 collecting boxes set up in shops, gas stations, and banks across the country, or to hand them over during a massive door-to-door campaign that will visit every household in Holland next month.
"We are asking people to give away something that is of no more value to them, it's like collecting scrap iron," says Jacobs, whose initiative has sparked similar efforts in Belgium, Austria, and Germany.
The coins will then be sorted and sent back to the central banks that originally issued them, which will pay euros for them.
Meanwhile, ordinary citizens are being bombarded with information helping them prepare for the changeover. Using the slogan "The euro, our money," TV spots advertising hoardings, brochures, posters, and leaflets are hammering home the message about the eight new coins and seven new banknotes that Europeans will be using in less than four weeks' time.
In France, cable Internet providers are posting helpful hints about the changeover on their home pages; in Portugal priests have been enlisted to spread the word in poor rural areas where older people still think in reals, a currency that has not existed for a hundred years.
Opinion polls show that different countries are in different states of readiness - the Finns the best informed, the Greeks the worst. And of course the changeover will be easier for some than for others. Germans will simply have to halve the price of a euro to work out its rough equivalent in familiar deutsche marks, the poor Austrians will have to divide by 13, and Italians - who are used to paying thousands of lire for anything more expensive than a cup of coffee - will find it difficult to get used to decimal points.
But overall, the European Central Bank that is overseeing the currency switch, and national governments who are implementing it, appear to be cautiously confident that the experiment will work.
"For a while, we will all feel abroad in our own countries," predicts Jerome Lagarde, who wrote a booklet of euro tips that the French authorities have handed out to confused citizens. "It will be good for us."
Not that the changeover is expected to be completely trouble-free.
Pascale Lanterne, who runs a small family bakery in central Paris, had hoped to pick up her first euro coins from the bank this week, but she was disappointed. The bank didn't have any because the mint hadn't delivered them.
"I think they are a bit overwhelmed," says Ms. Lanterne. "I'll have to wait."
And in Lisbon, Portugal, Jonas, an elephant at the Lisbon Zoo, has been taught to take Portuguese coins with his trunk. But he only accepts coins 20 escudos and higher. He will now have to distinguish the new euro coins.