2006-12-29 Michael Manske
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Slovenia banks on the Euro

Slovenians tolarsSlovenians tolars
For the people of Slovenia, January 1 means swapping their tolar for the euro. This tiny alpine country becomes the first of the EU newcomers to join the eurozone. The government has hailed it as Slovenia's biggest achievement since the former Yugoslav country joined the EU in 2004. Although Slovenia was never in serious danger of not meeting the requirements to adopt the Euro, there were still plenty of adventures along the way

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.

Since January 1st, 2007 the prices will already be quoted only in EurosSince January 1st, 2007 the prices will already be quoted only in Euros
There never seemed to be any danger of Slovenia not meeting the strict requirements, but Slovenia's road to the euro was still marked with plenty of strange bumps and occurences - especially when it came to the design of its euro coins.

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.

Slovenia's two euro coin features the country's foremost poet, France PrešerenSlovenia's two euro coin features the country's foremost poet, France Prešeren
But that's not all. The 2-cent piece features the so-called Prince's Stone; a Roman column on which the Princes of Karantania were installed. The only problem? Although it played a significant part in Slovenian history, it's currently in Austria. The far-right governor of Carinthia, Joerg Haider, vowed to prevent its use on Slovenian coins and protested to anyone who would listen. But, alas, no one did. The 2-cent coin will roll out on January 1.

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.

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