• Europa: 'Nobility, divinity, beauty and love stood at the cradle of our continent, but also violence' (Photo: ecb.int)

ECB unveils new €5 note

11.01.13 @ 09:25

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - The European Central Bank (ECB) launched a new €5 note on Thursday (10 January) with a topical joke on the crisis and British euroscepticism.

The note features a watermark and a hologram of Europa - a Phoenician princess who lent her name to Europe and whose portrait was taken from a 2,400-year-old wine jug in The Louvre museum in Paris.

ECB chief Mario Draghi signed a model of the bill at the unveiling ceremony in the archaeological museum in Frankfurt.

He said: "Over the years, euro banknotes have become the most visible symbol of European integration."

He added: "Despite the challenges facing the euro area ... I am confident that 2013 will bring about a deepening of economic and monetary union and will strengthen European integration."

His host, museum director Egon Warmes, noted that Emperor Charlemagne in the year 794 AD in Frankfurt launched the denarius - a silver coin that was used "from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the River Elbe in the east and from the northern seas to central Italy" and which was "the first, the primary euro."

He said King Offa in England also minted denarii, which he called pennies and which remained valid for 400 years.

With today's UK rejecting the euro and talking of leaving the EU, Warmes joked: "Thus, President Draghi, if you want to save the euro for more than 400 years, bring it to Britain."

The first Europa notes will arrive in banks and shops in May.

The ECB will print new versions of €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 notes in the "next few" years. The old ones will circulate alongside, but will "eventually cease to be legal tender" on a date to be announced "well in advance."

In Greek mythology, the god Zeus fell in love with Europa and then kidnapped and raped her.

"You see - nobility, divinity, beauty and love stood at the cradle of our continent, but also violence," Warmes said.

Draghi opted for a cleaner version of the story, however.

"Let me thank you Professor Warmes for your kind words - you said that nobility, divinity, beauty and love [are] all to be found in our beautiful continent," he said.