Slovenes are no strangers to new currencies. In 20 years, they will have gone through no less than four; that works out to new banknotes every five years. Back in the late 80s, when Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia, they used dinars. When Slovenia split, they adopted so-called transitional tolars, then switched to regular tolars. And now on January 1, Slovenia will become the first of the new EU members to adopt the euro.
At first glance, Slovenia's euro coins seem typical enough: they feature the country's foremost poet, France Prešeren; the country's highest mountain, Triglav; and the storks typical to the northeast. Where the coins differ is in depicting things that don't exist in Slovenia. For example, the 10-cent piece features the Slovenian parliament building. Or at least, a plan for the Slovenian parliament building - since the structure was never built. That means Slovenia will be the first eurozone member to depict a building that has never existed.
Some Austrians were also unhappy with Slovenia's 20-cent piece, which features the famed white Lipizzan horses. Although the breed originates in Slovenia and is a beloved national symbol, it is popularly associated with Vienna's Spanish Riding School.
Critics could point to the squabbling over something as seemingly harmless as coins as a bad omen for the European Union, but then again it's a positive sign that they were resolved peacefully. One thing is for sure: On Jan. 1, 300 million euro coins will be dispersed throughout Slovenia, the 13th member of the Eurozone.Listen to the report:
Come what may in 2007 Britain will have a new Prime Minister and France a new president. The EU will celebrate its 50th Birthday and Germany will raise taxes and finally catch up on anti-smoking laws. Daniel Franklin executive editor of the Economist takes a closer look at what else might lay ahead in 2007.
This New Year's Day will be a historic one for Bulgarians and Romanians whose countries will finally join the European Union and enlarge the bloc to 27 member states. Romania's road to membership has been a bumpy one, but last September, the European Commission finally ruled that the country had met all the criteria required to join the block. The problem is that Romania is not joining the club at an ideal time. Enlargement is no longer popular in Western Europe, and many Europeans fear the competition of cheaper Romanian workers. There are also doubts as to whether Romania is really fit to join the EU. Romania's EU integration Minister, Anca Daniela Boagiu discussed these issues with Network Europe.
January 1st also sees Germany take over the rotating presidency of the European Union from Finland. The six-months at the helm of the EU does not give a lot of time to tackle big issues but there are high expectations of Germany. Many members are looking to Berlin to make progress on the European constitution which was rejected by French and Dutch voters last year. There are also several other sensitive issues on the agenda including energy security, relations with Russia, climate change and the Middle East. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will need to maneuver carefully through a potential diplomatic minefield.
The New Year is always a time to reflect on the past 12 months - and to look ahead reflecting on the changes we want - or sometimes actually need.... Maybe your New Year's resolution is to quit smoking and get fit or perhaps to spend more time with your family. But what about the bigger picture? What New Year's resolution would you want for your country? Here's a sample of what Europeans think.
We asked you to tell us in which European country naughty children get rotten potatoes in the run-up to Christmas? The correct answer is: Iceland. Congratulations to: Henk Poortvliet from Zeist in the Netherlands, Djamal Hamouda from Algiers, Algeria, Sunil Singh from Muzaffappur, India, Uchechukwu Nwosu from Owerri, Niger, Sabiha Mubeen, from Muscat, Oman, Xiu-Ping Qian, from Xian in China, Riaz Hussein Malik, from Jhang Sadar, Pakistan.
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