Looking ahead to the euro10-14-2001
The turmoil and uncertainty of the past month notwithstanding, a major new world currency will debut in 11 weeks.
On Jan. 1, following centuries of discussion and a decade of implementation, the euro replaces the traditional monetary units of 12 European nations. During January and February, the traditional currency of each of those countries still can be used, but as of March 1, the Austrian schilling, Belgian franc, Finnish markka, French franc, German mark, Greek drachma, Irish punt, Italian lire, Luxembourg franc, Dutch guilder, Portuguese escudo and Spanish peseta will be legal tender no longer.
After that date, the only places those bills and coins will be accepted legally is at banks for exchange into euros, and then only for one month at no charge. Starting April 1, commercial banks will be permitted to levy a fee for making the exchange.
In addition to these European Economic Union countries, several non-EEU nations, including Monaco, Andorra, San Marino, Vatican City, the Azores Islands, Canary Islands, Guadeloupe and Martinique will make their currency the euro.
On the other hand, three EEU member nations -- Britain, Denmark and Sweden -- will keep their traditional currencies, at least for the time being. So will non-EEU nations such as Switzerland, Norway and all of Eastern Europe.
The euro, which is now worth about 90 cents, has already been used in electronic transactions for two years, but bills and coins only now are being distributed to banks.
Here are the basics on the currency:
Like the dollar, each euro is divided into 100 cents.
Paper money, the design of which will be the same across all the participating nations, is printed in seven denominations (5,10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros). The denominations are each a different color and size, getting larger as the value rises.
In addition, there are eight denominations of coins -- one and two euros, and one, two, five, 10, 20 and 50 cents. Unlike the paper money, however, each euro coin will have a country specific face, where each nation can express its own creativity. For example, all Irish coins display the Irish harp, Spain's 50-eurocent piece has a bust of Cervantes, and the Greek two-euro coin features a mosaic of the mythological abduction of Europa by Zeus.
The currency change will be more complicated for EEU residents, who have to deal with decimal conversions from their old systems, than it will be for travelers, who only will have to carry one currency across much of Europe. One of the bigger problems is retooling all of the ATMs, vending machines and other places where money is electronically collected or disbursed.
This is clearly a milestone of historic proportions. Although many of the currencies that will disappear have been around only for decades, the Greek drachma dates to the seventh century B.C.
While much national color and character will fade away, the arrival of the euro is a major step forward in simplifying international commerce and furthering global cooperation.
For more information on euros, go to www.europa.eu.int/euro.
For foreign currency by mail, call International Currency Express at 888-278-6628 or go to www.foreignmoney.com.
To check daily exchange rates, go to www.oanda.com.
Circling the airport
Apart from inconvenience to passengers in transit, the new security regulations at Pittsburgh International airport have exacerbated a perennial problem for the people who come to pick up passengers when they arrive.
Although the short-term parking lot is again available, many drivers simply want to pick up incoming passengers outside of the baggage retrieval concourse on the lower level.
Prior to Sept. 11, there was a degree of tolerance about allowing drivers to park at the curb and wait with their cars until their passenger showed up. When the situation got too crowded, county police officers would shoo drivers away, forcing them to circle the two-mile road around the airport parking lots.
Now police are constantly vigilant about keeping cars from the curb, except for people who are actively loading luggage. When drivers arrive, they aren't permitted to get out to check the arrival monitors inside. Thus, there's no way to know whether the person they're meeting has arrived or whether they should park in the short term lot and wait for them inside.
Instead, drivers are forced to circle around with no idea how many orbits they should make, at a considerable cost in wasted gas and unnecessary exhaust pollution. The other option is to pull over to the shoulder along the airport's outer perimeter road and wait for who knows how long.
Everyone appreciates the need for security precautions. But the airport would be much more user-friendly for these drivers if there was a legal place for them to pull over and wait for a few minutes near the terminal. Ideally, this space would face an arrival monitor where drivers could check a flight's progress. If Pittsburgh International is to be a world-class airport, let's make it more convenient for citizens who aren't flying.
Until that happens, drivers would be well advised to bring a second person along to go inside and assess the arrival situation. Another option is for drivers and passengers to carry cell phones so they can communicate about when and where to meet.