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Picture Atlas > Symbols 


Source: Audiovisual Library © European Commission 2005

Original Caption
"Tomorrow - the Economic and Monetary Union"

Picture Analysis
This picture too can be found - with no precise date - on the website of the Audio-Visual Library of the European Commission. Under the rubric, History of the Euro 1988-2002, between a picture showing the signing of the Treaty of Maastricht on 7.2.1992 and a "family photo" of the European Summit on 16.2.1995 in Madrid, it stands for the first turbulent phase of the European Currency Union: This was defined by an increasingly rigid currency policy in Europe as well as by a series of financial speculations which led, for example, in September 1992 to the exclusion of the British pound and the Italian lira from the rate of exchange mechanism.

What the picture expresses - that the European currencies will flow together into a common unit, the ECU - has to be read more as the representation of a wish than of a reality: As a common monetary unit, the ECU in any case from as early as 1981 was the name given to a value calculated from the sum of all currencies of the member states. Without economic convergence criteria however or the fixing of rates of exchange as they were projected by the Treaty of Maastricht, the establishment of the European Currency Union would not have been possible: For this reason at the summit in Madrid 1995 the term "ECU" which had still been projected in the Treaty of Maastricht as the name of the common currency was dropped in favor of the term "euro".

The picture is visually interesting on the basis of the symbols that it assembles as also the way they are ordered: Material carriers of various symbols (the bank notes) form a street, or a river, or a path, which leads to the horizon, i.e., to the boundary of the world visible to the viewer. Over this threshold to the invisible hovers the European circle of stars, the symbol of unity and perfection; in this presentation it could also be (mis)understood as the representation of a sun. On the website of the European Commission there are only a few pictures that connect the European circle of stars directly to bank notes, as if the "Idea of Europe" could suffer from recognizing its foundation in trading goods and money. The picture seeks to convince people of the opposite: No European unity without a unified currency.

© Demokratiezentrum Wien

About the Project

The Picture Atlas is an outcome of the project ICONCLASH. Collective Icons and Democratic Governance in Europe

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