January marks 20 years since the launch of the euro, but whether it's been good for the region and whether it can survive another 20 years unscathed is hotly contested.
An Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) had long been an ambition of Europe's integrationist politicians and was seen as a natural progression to the EU's ideals of "ever greater union." Hence, in January 1999, the euro — a unique experiment in which countries in Europe would give up their national currencies, adopt the single currency and cede control of their monetary policy to a newly created, supranational European Central Bank (ECB) — was born.
The ECB had been established a year before to define and administer monetary policy for the euro zone and had the chief responsibility to maintain price stability with an inflation target of below but close to 2 percent. In the meantime, members retained control over their fiscal policies although there are overarching rules on these in the EU.
At its inception in 1999, the euro was adopted by 11 EU members, but it was then joined by Greece, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Slovakia, and then the Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania followed. Euro notes and coins were officially introduced as legal tender in 2002.