If it was good enough for Archimedes, then it's good enough for me! And thanks to Beate Beyer-Arvanitidis, who gave members of IWOP (the International Women's Organization of Paros) a very informative talk on 21st November, I finally feel a lot less in the dark about the introduction of the Euro - the largest monetary changeover the world has ever seen - on January 1st. The European objective of a common European market was declared in the Treaty of Rome in 1958 and steps towards Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and the laying of the foundations for a single currency were established in the Single European Act of 1986 and the Treaty on European Union in 1992. The third stage of EMU began on 1st January 1999 when the exchange rates of the participating currencies were irrevocably set and member states began implementing a common monetary policy.
Greece joined on 1st January 2001 to become the 12th EMU member state - the others are Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Luxemburg, Holland, Portugal and Finland.
Beate suggested that we might already begin to familiarize ourselves with the new currency from the beginning of December, rather than waiting until January when we will be thrown straight into the deep end! She proposed a simple exercise of making a basic record of expenditure for the month of December (for rent, electricity, phone, etc), but recording the amounts in Euros instead of in drachmas. On 17th December, the first new coins will become available in Greece and you can purchase a pack of coins worth the equivalent of 5,000 drachmas from the bank, though they will not become legal tender until January 1st.
It is also already possible to transfer money in Euros between all twelve of the EMU member states. However, the amount charged by each bank varies quite considerably. The cheapest at present (at 7,500drs) is the Agrotiki Bank, unless the amount you want to transfer is less than 75,000drs or you need an immediate transfer (the banks take 2 days), in which case Western Union (at the Post Office) is the cheapest option.
At midnight on 31st December, any bank accounts held in drachmas will be automatically converted at no charge to Euros and from 1st January cash withdrawals either by cashcard or from the bank tellers will be in the new currency.
You can continue to pay for goods and services in either drachmas or Euros for another two months (until 28th February), and prices will continue to be listed in both currencies, but change will only be given in Euros. You can also exchange drachmas for Euros at any bank until 28th Feb; after 1st March and up until 1/3/2004 (for coins) and 1/3/2012 (for notes) they can only be exchanged at the Bank of Greece in Athens.
Cheques may only be issued in Euros after 1st Jan and if you have a drachma chequebook you should return it to the bank to have a new Euro chequebook issued. Stamps showing only a drachma price are valid only until 31st Dec.
The fixed exchange rate used for the drachma to the Euro is 340.75. Leaflets are available from banks with the exchange rates used for all member states as well as details of the new coins and notes and how to round up or down. Coins are available in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents - called lepta (singular lepto) in Greece - 1 Euro and 2 Euros. Notes are available for 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 Euros.
Tax statements for the year 2001 will be calculated in Euro not drachmas. Also, note that the tax office has sent out reminders to pay car tax (teloi kykloforias) before the introduction of the Euro by 14th December - earlier than usual. You pay double the amount if it is late, so make sure you pay on time!
Finally, from 1st March 2002, only the Euro will be accepted as legal tender.
Many thanks to Beate for providing us with this extremely important and useful information. And we'd like to wish all our readers a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.