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Hello, Euro; Bye-bye Lire, Franc, Mark, Drachma and Peseta

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2002 – After some initial growing pains, the European Union's conversion to the Euro currency that started Jan. 1 will make life easier for U.S. service members serving in Europe, DoD officials believe.

But first, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service had to change many systems most people wouldn't think of. DFAS changed its payment systems for open contracts to reflect the change from the old, or legacy, currencies to the Euro. Officials also had to change things like ATMs and money drawers in finance centers.

DoD's total cost for the Euro conversion was only about $1.3 million, according to Keith Westby, a financial management analyst for the Defense Financial Institutions Services Office.

Twelve European countries are converting to the Euro. Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain agreed in 1992 to create a common currency. Though members of the European Union, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden decided to keep their national currencies.

From Jan. 1 to Feb. 28, 2002, individuals in countries transferring to the Euro can use that country's legacy currency or Euros to make financial transactions. After Feb. 28, old national currencies can be exchanged at banks, but not spent at businesses.

U.S. military and DoD civilian personnel and their families fall under the same rules as residents of these countries. DFAS prepared posters and other educational products to let DoD employees and their families overseas know about the change and current exchange rates, Westby said.

DoD pre-positioned Euros so all community banks and ATMs would dispense the new currency when the conversion began, Westby said. He said he believes conversion to the Euro will make travel in Europe easier. One currency will make shopping price comparisons between countries easier as well, he said.

"Euro coinage is good across 12 borders, whereas in the past, a country's coinage was good only in that country," Westby said. "I believe everyone that has traveled in Europe has a footlocker full of unspendable coins that they brought back following a temporary duty trip or vacation."

For more information on the Euro or to get a look at the new bills and coins, go to www.euro.ecb.int.

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