On January 1 2007, Europe celebrates the fifth anniversary of the launch of euro notes and coins by welcoming a 13th member of the eurozone – Slovenia, the tiny former Yugoslav republic. But the eurozone’s geographical expansion is modest in comparison with the rapid growth in euro notes in circulation within the region and beyond. Earlier this month the value of euro notes pushed through the €600bn (£402bn, $787bn) level – roughly double the value of the then-national currencies in circulation at the end of 2001. The signs are that in December the currency came of age by overtaking the US dollar in terms of the value of notes in circulation.
A majority of French people believe the switch to the euro five years ago was bad for their country, according to a recent poll, which suggests the French blame the common European currency for damaging economic growth and causing price hikes. [...] The presidential front-runners for next April's elections, Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal, have both criticised the European Central Bank for harming economic growth with a series of interest rates increases.
Meanwhile, some opinions held by the French resemble those of their counterparts in other eurozone countries, five years after the euro coins and notes were introduced. [...] The special Eurobarometer poll also suggested that the single currency is still influencing consumer habits across the eurozone with a third of citizens saying they buy less because of a fear of spending too much - but this number has dropped by 6 percent since 2005.
Altogether, the special survey found the lowest rate of approval for the euro since its introduction. “While in 2002, 59% of the respondents in the eurozone thought that the new currency was overall advantageous for their country, currently only less than half of respondents hold such a favourable opinion,” it concluded.