The Euro Gets a Revamp: What to Expect from the New Euro Banknote in 2024

Euro Gets a Revamp (1)

It has been over a decade since the European Central Bank issued a new series of euro banknotes. This second series included the European flag, a map of the continent on the reverse, and the signature of Mario Draghi, former President of the ECB. The announcement that a third series will be released in 2024 with a particular focus on artistic symbolism has excited designers and security printers alike.

During his keynote speech back in June 2021 at the Deutsche Bundesbank’s 5th International Cash Conference entitled “Cash in times of turmoil” in Frankfurt am Main, Fabio Panetta, ECB Executive Board member, declared that one of the goals of the ECB Governing Council “is to continue providing safe, state-of-the-art euro banknotes, recognising their role as a powerful symbol of European integration. As part of our strategy, we will engage with the public to understand which themes and designs can best connect us through euro banknotes in the future.”

Panetta’s comments come as the European Central Bank announces the release of a brand new design for euro banknotes by 2024. The ECB is leveraging focus groups across the eurozone to brainstorm ideas, poll consumers and suggest possible designs and themes for the new notes.

This new initiative reinforces the idea that banknotes can serve as potent cultural symbols, flag bearers for a unifying European ideal shared across the continent. The introduction of these new notes should underline the fact that banknotes are not dead, in spite of the rise of cashless economies in the digital age. The project will involve working with the big players of the European fiduciary industry, whose decades of experience will be vital to a successful rollout of the plan.

A new design to reinforce the power of cash

Of course, monetary authorities are constantly putting forward new proposals for banknote series, mainly to combat fraud and counterfeiting. It is estimated that a banknote series lasts on average around 10 years and that beyond, the risk of counterfeiting increases exponentially.

But this new proposal seems rather more based on European identity politics, at a time when euro-cynicism and nationalism are rife across the bloc following the shock of Brexit and the unifying effect of the war in Ukraine.

Furthermore, this is the first time a process has been launched to completely redesign the themes and design of the euro banknote in over two decades. “Previously, with the Europa Series 2, we only refreshed the design to accommodate a range of new and enhanced security features, which will also make it easy to differentiate between the two existing series,” a spokesperson told Euronews.

Although no decision has been made, it is expected that these new notes will feature historical figures with links to the European ideal, from fields such as history, natural and social sciences, the visual arts, and technology.

“We want to develop euro banknotes that European citizens can identify with and will be proud to use as their money,” said Fabio Panetta in a statement “The process to redesign the euro banknotes will run in parallel with our investigation on a digital euro. Both projects aim to fulfill our mandate of providing safe and secure money to Europeans”.

Time to bring out the heavyweights

The principal banknote manufacturers in Europe are perhaps not widely known amongst the wider public but these players will undoubtedly be close to the process, bringing in decades of expertise to assure the smooth running and eventual success of the initiative. These include the German banknote and securities printer Giesecke+Devrient (G+D) and the French company Oberthur Fiduciaire, which boasts similar expertise.

Both firms have a rich and long history in banknote printing, but in recent times G+D has begun to expand into the digital. For example, the firm recently launched a joint venture with the Turkish firm Eczacıbaşı Holding which aims to provide biometric smart cards across Eastern Europe. Nonetheless, its penchant for producing banknotes that are not just functional, but cultural in nature remains crucial. “Banknotes do more than unite aesthetics with security, fine arts with material science. Above the substrate, alongside the security features, each banknote tells a story”.

This approach is shared and magnified by Oberthur Fiduciaire, a French printing company established in Rennes in 1842. The firm prides itself on its know-how and its very specific experience in banknote printing, focused on aesthetic allure and effective security. “Combining art and technology is the central challenge in security printing and requires very specific know-how and a high level of technical knowledge”.

For Thomas Savare, CEO of the company, “cash is a time-honoured instrument, appreciated by people at large, and which has given every proof of proper functioning… Cash is an essential public service thanks to its efficiency, its ubiquity, and the privacy protection it entails.” Oberthur Fiduciaire is a classic example of a traditional, age-old company keen to uphold a specific fiduciary tradition.

Indeed, this new Euro project for 2024 will require input from Oberthur, whose unique approach to banknote printing (no-subcontracting, traceability, business ethics, innovative security features), as well as its conscious effort to respect the artistic, symbolic aesthetic of banknotes will be conducive to the project’s development.

A symbol of a secure Europe

“Over the years the euro banknotes… have become an important symbol of European integration,” said Benoît Cœuré, member of the Executive Board of the ECB, back in 2013. This still rings true, and the ECB’s declaration of intent regarding the release of a new series in 2024 is really an attempt to reinforce this idea. It will take a collective effort between member states and fiduciary experts to make the initiative a success. Luckily in Europe, we do not lack expertise in the field…

This expertise is equally crucial for securing the banknotes from fraud and counterfeiting. Oberthur Fiduciaire, for example, much like its competitors, prides itself on the security features incorporated into its banknotes.

“Our processes are subject to ISO norms with very strict requirements covering different areas such as quality management systems (ISO 9001), information security (ISO 27001), respect of the environment (ISO 14001), and even anti-bribery programs (ISO 37001). Having the trust of our clients is of the utmost importance to us and we have done everything we can to fulfill our mission regardless of the current economic context,” said Etienne Couëlle, General Manager of the firm.

Oberthur Fiduciaire is strongly engaged in improving the security of its banknotes against counterfeiting with a dozen of unique security features Central banks can rely on. Famous for its incorporated state-of-the-art security characteristics such as its Relief solution, its innovative generation of 3D threads, its Pulsar colour shift thread which integrates ingenious micro-optics, or its Avalon reversible fluorescent security feature, the notes produced by Oberthur Fiduciaire are said to be exceptionally attractive and replete with security.

The company has also been committed to innovating regarding health threats that could endanger its users. For instance, they seems to be well ahead of the game with the release of the solution Bioguard, an anti-virus, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal technology that even works against the covid-19 virus, yet already used on more than ten billion banknotes in circulation.

G+D, much like Oberthur, has been working with regards to improving banknotes by developing a sustainable and visionary product: the Green Banknote, revealed at the Global Currency Forum back in May. Long-lasting and attractive, with 86 % less plastic than polymer banknotes, the company is taking it to the next level by introducing a unique product, the result of a fostered initiative called “The Green Banknote Initiative”.

The aim is to partner up and collaborate with paper manufacturers, banknotes producers, and clients, to create a joint framework of resources based on a strategy that combines reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and sustainable use of manufacturing materials. Making cash greener together is the new motto. Studies carried out in partnership with G+D’s Louisenthal subsidiary into the carbon and water footprints of various substrates showed that the sustainable banknote of the future will include a variety of security features, added to a durable cotton-based core.“Producing more plastic than necessary is no longer socially acceptable”, concluded the paper. “Banknotes are no exception. Introducing new products that use more plastic than necessary is difficult to justify. Cash is no exception: In the public perception, a step toward plastic is a step in the wrong direction. Introducing a currency made of polymer instead of a natural material like cotton is difficult to communicate — for a good reason. On the other hand: Sustainable products made of renewable materials are becoming increasingly popular across all industries and categories.”

Worth a mention as well is Spain’s Fabrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre (FNMT), which has been producing banknotes since 1940 for Spain’s Central Bank, the ECB, and various other Central Banks. Like its competitors, it has always given special focus to security throughout the manufacturing process and the aesthetic quality of its banknotes, and its products and services are characterised by the know-how and experience acquired throughout their existence.

Security + aesthetics, there’s plenty to think about before the new series release in 2024…

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.