“The changeover to the euro is the biggest heist of the century. In one sentence, Claude sets the tone. Exactly twenty years ago, on February 17, 2002 at midnight, the French abandoned the franc forever and adopted the euro, the only legal currency. A change that has been made gradually since for two years already, the French had the habit of converting the euro into francs, with in particular the dual display of prices in shops. As a reminder, one euro is equivalent to 6.55957 francs. This period of transition is remembered by many of our readers for the better… And for the worse.
The first time he discovers the euro, Eric* is at the machine ready to withdraw his new banknotes. The impatience to discover a new object, to touch it, to smell it, is very present. “Already with the francs, when a new note came out, there was a feeling that I appreciated,” he recalls. Mylène, she discovers it through his work. “Our company had distributed to all of us a small bag of a few euros shortly before the switch from the franc to the euro. There was a certain excitement in experiencing this great change that has shaken up our daily habits! Pierre, 10 years old at the time, also received a bag of 15.24 euros, “a kind of starter set euro! “.
“It’s as if they were throwing money out the window”
Once the introduction of the euro in the hearths, it is from now on necessary to live with this new currency with the daily newspaper. Clément remembers one evening when he went out for a drink with his father, in a bar in Draguignan. At the time of payment, not a penny in his pocket, he decides to withdraw from the distributor. Owl, a 20 euro note. Problem ? The bartender does not yet have any euros in his cash register, so he gives him change in francs. Since then, he keeps these small pieces preciously as a souvenir.
Régine, a baker, had at the time a cash register capable of cashing francs and giving change in euros. Practically all of his customers have the special euro purse with compartments for each coin. “The thing that struck me the most was that people no longer had anything to do with the francs, they gladly left the change. The franc was no longer worth anything, it’s as if they were throwing the money out the window, especially the centimes,” she recalls.
Past the excitement of change, the cold shower
Very quickly, the French realize that the changeover to the euro is accompanied by a rise in prices. They notice this in particular by converting the prices of the euro into francs. This is the case of Alphonsine, who continues to do the math: “Thanks to this conversion, I realize how much the euro is still a scam given the prices of daily life. A baguette currently costs 0.90 cents or even €1, which is equivalent to 6.55957 francs. Before the euro, a baguette cost 2 or 3 francs, no more,” she regrets.
Thierry observes that while the euro has facilitated travel and the stock market, it has not improved citizens’ purchasing power: “Prices rose before, during and after… Except wages. » Eric* notes an increase in the price of real estate: « At the end of 1990, for 1 million francs, we had a house in the inner suburbs of Paris. Twenty years later, for 150,000 euros, we barely have a studio…” Henri* dreams of imagining the franc once again becoming the national currency: “Since the euro, the cost of living has exploded. The French trade balance continues to deteriorate. Admittedly, the return to the franc would imply a period of inflation, but would also allow France to consolidate its economy and its decomposing industrial fabric. »
If the euro is strongly criticized, some recognize that it has made trade easier within the European Union, but also with other foreign countries. Jean-Pierre, retired, has lived in India since 2004. According to him, the EUR/INR exchange rate allows him “a luxurious life that I would not have had in France: beautiful house, swimming pool, staff…” Chantal, of nationality Belgium also switched to the euro at the same time as the French. For her, this change represents “the happiness of no longer having to change currency each time you cross the border… The ease of comparing prices from one country to another. ” For her, no doubt: “It’s sad to always think about the past, you have to live in the present time! »