Timeline of euro

11:52, December 31, 2010      

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Estonia will become the 17th European Union (EU) country to use the euro on Jan. 1, 2011, as a sovereign debt crisis is posing the biggest threat to the single currency. The following are principal dates in the history of the euro.

-- December 1969: The European summit in The Hague officially set the objective of a single European currency and entrusted then Luxembourg Prime Minister Pierre Werner to draft a report about the launch of the currency before 1980.

-- October 1970: The Werner Plan proposed three stages for the development of a single currency, which should include the free circulation of goods within the European Economic Community (EEC) and the fixing of currency parities.

-- March 1979: The European Monetary System (EMS) came into effect, with an exchange rate mechanism and the European Currency Unit (ECU).

-- February 1992: The Maastricht Treaty was signed in the Dutch city of Maastricht, setting out a timetable and criteria for joining the euro.

-- January 1994: The European Monetary Institute (EMI), the embryo of the European Central Bank (ECB), was launched.

-- December 1995: The European summit in Madrid named the single currency the euro.

-- December 1996: In Dublin, European leaders drew up the Stability and Growth Pact, which demands single currency states follow rigorous budgetary guidelines on a permanent basis.

-- May 1998: The European summit in Brussels formally launched the euro, confirming 11 states as initiators of the currency. They are Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Portugal, Austria, Finland and Ireland.

-- July 1998, The European Central Bank replaced the European Monetary Bureau, with its headquarters based in Germany's Frankfurt.

-- Jan. 1, 1999: The euro was officially launched after currency parities were fixed irreversibly. Three days later, it began to be traded in the exchange markets.

-- Oct. 25, 2000: The euro fell to 0.8252 U.S. dollar, its lowest level so far.

-- Jan. 1, 2001: Greece, which failed to meet the criteria for initiating the euro in 1999, entered the euro zone.

-- Jan. 1, 2002: The euro notes and coins were introduced.

-- September 2003: The Swedes voted against adopting the euro.

-- Jan. 1, 2007: Slovenia became the 13th country to use the euro.

-- Jan. 1, 2008: Cyprus and Malta joined the euro zone.

-- April 22, 2008: The euro hit 1.60 U.S. dollars in New York trading, its highest level so far.

-- Jan. 1, 2009: Slovakia joined the euro zone, becoming the 16th member of the euro zone.

-- Oct. 20, 2009: The Greek government conceded that the country's deficit continued to surge, exceeding 12 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2009, well beyond the EU deficit ceiling of 3 percent of GDP.

The Greek debt crisis then unfolded after the subsequent downgrading of Greece's sovereign credit rating by the world's three major rating agencies.

-- May 2, 2010: EU leaders agreed to activate the aid package for Greece, along with the International Monetary Fund, to offer the country 110 billion euros (about 146 billion U.S. dollars) in three years, marking the first-ever bailout of a eurozone member.

-- Oct. 28-29, 2010: EU leaders endorsed a reform plan to prevent recurrence of the sovereign debt crisis, agreeing to strengthen budgetary discipline, introduce macro-economic surveillance, improve coordination of economic policies and set up a permanent crisis resolution mechanism in the euro zone. It was the most ambitious reform in the history of the euro.

-- Jan. 1, 2011: Estonia joins the euro zone.

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