EU Says Counterfeiting a Minor Problem in Nations Using The Euro

Counterfeiting of euro banknotes and coins remains a minor problem in the 13 European Union nations using the currency, officials said Friday.

In all, 565,000 counterfeit banknotes had to be withdrawn from circulation in 2006, a tiny amount compared to the 10.6 billion notes in use, the European Central Bank announced. The total was down slightly from the 2005 figure of 579,000.

Even though counterfeit coins recovered shot up to 163,822, compared to 100,491, the European Commission said it was "insignificant compared to the total number of 69 billion genuine euro coins in circulation."

The 20 euro note remained the most popular with counterfeiters, accounting for 36 % of notes recovered, with the 50 euro banknote in second place with 31 percent.

Last year, one illegal mint was dismantled in Italy, bringing to 12 the total number of mints discovered since the euro was introduced in 2002.

The euro is used by 312 million people. Slovenia became the 13th euro-zone member on Jan. 1, with other countries lining up to join in coming years.

The ECB is in charge of withdrawing counterfeit euro notes, but the European Commission - the EU's executive agency - is responsible for fake euro coins.