The euro could also have been called ECU, Franconia or Euromark.
Europe’s currency got its name 25 years ago. Alternatives such as ecu, franc or Euromark did not prevail. Since then, the euro has been loved, hated, reviled and coveted.
E.t were eventful times, around December 16, 1995. At that time, Europe’s heads of state and government agreed at a summit in Spain’s capital Madrid on the designation “euro” as the name for the future European common currency. That the smaller coins would be called “cents” was just as uncertain at the time as the exact group of participants in what would later become monetary union. Only Great Britain was already tight-lipped back then.
“It was a struggle for the name,” remembers Otmar Issing, 74 years old, the former chief economist of the Bundesbank, who closely followed the development at the time. At that time the French wanted to enforce the name “Ecu”, with lowercase letters. They wanted to preserve the memory of French gold and silver coins, which were already so called in the Middle Ages. The Bundesbank, on the other hand, said that if you did, you had to capitalize all three letters; then it is the abbreviation for “European Currency Unit” and not a resurgence of an ancient French currency. Also, whether it then has to be “the” or “the” Ecu or ECU was a matter of dispute between Germany and France. “It was partly a bizarre argument,” recalls Issing. Suggestions such as “Francs”, “Gulden”, “Euro-Gulden” or “Euromark” were also discussed at the time – but could not prevail.