Last week, when the Eurozone was hanging on the final "yes" vote in the Slovak Parliament to agree to the proposed EU bailout fund, I could not help thinking about the actual euro currency and its design.
For those who have not seen the bank notes, they are elegant. In clear and distinct colours that are easy to distinguish, they are a welcome change from semi-monochromatic currencies. Their design was thoughtful and symbolic, for this currency is an ambassador for the countries of the European Union. History, ethics, moral values... are all implied by a country's currency, and more so with this new currency that the EU launched in 2002.
On the side illustrated at right, it was decided to use architecture down the ages in Europe, designing it so that it was not specifically that of any one place. Using the symbolic motif of arches and entrances, examples were sought from across Europe and then stylised. The 5€ bill evokes classical architecture, the 10€ Roman architecture and the 20€ alludes to Gothic buildings. The 50€ brings us to Renaissance times, the 100€ refers to Baroque and Rococo architecture, the 200€ evokes the advent of metal in 19th century buildings, while the 500€ brings us to modern architecture. (For many years, in Spain, the 500€ bills were referred to as "Bin Ladens" as they were so seldom seen!)
The reverse side of the bank notes is about bridges, another important symbol for this ever-increasing union of countries that have often been enemies in the past.
One of my favourite notes is the 20€ bill, for its limpid, subtle blue and serene design reminds me of the wonderful stained glass windows in Gothic cathedrals and the old bridges across the rivers of Northern Europe.
Sometimes, it is at the physical level - that of handling the bank notes and looking at their artistic design and symbolism - that helps bring home the importance of parliamentary decisions. I am glad that the Slovaks decided to help the euro stagger on again. It would be a great shame to abandon such elegant currency!