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On the 1st January 1999 the Euro was first introduced as an invisible accounting currency and physical banknotes and coins were not introduced until 3 years later on the 1st January 2002.
Initially the Euro was launched in 12 countries. Shops and banks slowly exchanged the old European currencies such as the French Franc, the Spanish Peso and the German Deutshe Mark for the Euro. Cash points gave out only Euros and shops only gave change in Euro coins and notes. The first countries to adopt the Euro were France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal.
The micro states of Monaco, Andorra, The Vatican City and San Marino were also early adopters of the new Euro currency. In 2007 Slovenia stopped using Slovenian Tolars as their national currency and adopted the Euro, in 2008 Cyprus and Malta joined the Eurozone, followed by Slovakia in 2009, Estonia in 2011, Latvia in 2014 and Lithuania in 2015.
Using a single currency in 17 countries has significantly increased competition amongst suppliers and shops. Consumers can now easily make price comparisons on products across the Eurozone and buy goods such as electrical items from abroad that are cheaper.
The Euro is the official currency of Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain. The ISO 4217 currency code for the Euro is EUR.