- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2002

Celebrating the euro
Forget Eiffel Tower, the Coliseum or fairy-tale castles in Germany. Forget tulips in Holland and bullfights in Spain. The new symbol of Europe looks like the letter C with two lines through the middle.
That stands for the euro, the new European currency used in 12 of the 15 member nations of the European Union. Last night, diplomats celebrated the introduction of the euro, which went into circulation Jan. 1.
"The euro is so far the strongest symbol of Europe's unity," said Ambassador Guenter Burghardt, head of the European Commission delegation to the United States.
Mr. Burghardt and his guests celebrated at the Federal Reserve building, a location that inspired more talk of symbolism. The reception also marked the annual Europe Day, which commemorates the May 9, 1950, founding of postwar economic compacts that evolved into the European Union.
"What could be more fitting than to celebrate our Europe Day in the first year of the real euro at the Federal Reserve building, the home of the dollar," Mr. Burghardt said.
He praised the United States and the European Union for having the "two most powerful economies in the world."
Mr. Burghardt said the euro will benefit corporations doing business in Europe and American travelers because they will no longer have to hassle with the notes and coins of different countries and sundry exchange rates. One dollar bought 1.10 euros this week.
"Ordering a cappuccino on a terrace in Rome will no longer require dividing the price by 2,400-and-something to find out what good a deal they have struck," he said.
Tourists in Britain, Denmark and Sweden, which have not adopted the euro, will still have to use the local currency.
Mr. Burghardt noted the mind-boggling effort to replace the francs, pesetas, lira and others with the euro.
"One of the biggest ever civilian operations replacing national currencies of 12 EU member states with 51 billion euro coins and 15 billion euro notes went according to plan, with very few hitches," he said.
"The smooth changeover proved that the people of Europe can and do work together, with enthusiasm and firm resolve, toward important common goals."
Even the symbol for the euro is symbolic. While Embassy Row thinks it looks like a C, the European Union insists it looks like the letter E. The EU Web site, https://europa.eu.int/euro/html/home5.html?lang=5, helpfully notes that E is the first letter in Europe. It explains that the euro sign was inspired by the Greek letter epsilon, which looks like a backward 3.

More than Meciar
The Slovak Embassy is growing tired of seeing so many column items about Vladimir Meciar, the former authoritarian prime minister whose re-election could threaten Slovakia's candidacy for NATO.
"While we share your concerns about Meciar, Slovakia is now mainly about those 70 percent of people and politicians who tend to see their future brighter, and Mr. Meciar is for them a thing of the past," a Slovak diplomat said in an e-mail to Embassy Row.
The diplomat was referring to the backers of the coalition government. Mr. Meciar draws about 30 percent support in public opinion polls, which is more than any individual party in the coalition.
U.S. and NATO officials have urged Slovak voters to reject Mr. Meciar in the September elections because they do not want a government led by him in the Western alliance.
The Slovak diplomat said that "there's a lot going on" that has nothing to do with Mr. Meciar.
Slovak President Rudolf Schuster will visit President Bush on June 7. He will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan and Defense Minister Jozef Stank.
After the Washington visit, Mr. Kukan will travel to Chicago to receive the remains of Milan Hodza, the last prime minister of the former Czechoslovakia before World War II. Mr. Hodza took refuge in the United States after the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia.
Also Michigan Gov. John Engler, Republican, is due to visit Slovakia this month.


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