The official single currency used by the current 19 members of the eurozone.
It came into being officially on January 1, 1999 as the common currency for an initial 11 countries – Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain, with Greece joining 2 years later on January 1, 2001. The initial countries were also joined by the sovereign microstates of San Marino, Monaco, Andorra and the Vatican City.
The United Kingdom famously stayed out of the Eurozone. Along with the UK, Poland, Denmark and Sweden are other notable European Union member countries that did not adopt the euro.
From its inception in 1999, when 11 countries launched the euro, it has since grown its membership to 19 countries. Later members were Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Cyprus, Slovenia, Malta and Estonia.
After theU.S. dollar, the euro is the world’s second largest reserve currency and the second most traded in the world. The zone of its use, the eurozone represents the largest GDP zone in the world, with the United States in second place.
The euro was brought into being for a number of reasons. Among them, policy-makers wanted to integrate Europe further and also to strengthen Europe’s ability to compete as a continent on the world stage, especially with North America and Asia. The 2007-09 Global Financial Crisis, however, upset the currency’s development. The European sovereign debt crisis is still ongoing, having begun with the aforementioned crisis.