On January 1 2002, about 300 million people in 12 European countries moved over to the new European currency, the euro. However, it was not the first time that Europeans have tried to unite with the use of a common monetary unit in theory and in practice. In Europe, there have been attempts for the introduction of common currency that can be dated back to the roman times. In modern times, though, the first currency union was attempted in the early 19th century in the German lands.
The Zollverein was both a customs and a monetary union and became the first step towards the German political unity. It started in 1818 with the union of the North German States and more political units joined by 1866. As a variety of coins were minted and used in the area and only some were commonly recognized, a series of acts was introduced to standardize the systems of coinage among the 39 different states. The common currency was knows as the Vereinsmunze The Zollverein proved to be a great success and became one of the major tools for the political unification of Germany in 1871. In 1876 the Reichbank was established to control all coinage and paper currency and the Reichsmark was introduced as the common German currency.
In 1848, France, Belgium, and Switzerland entered into a currency union known as the Latin Monetary Union. Italy, Greece and Bulgaria were accepted in the union by 1867 as the founding countries invited other Europeans to join them. The gold and silver coins of each country were freely interchanged across the area. However, there was no single currency and countries kept minting and using their national coins and an exchange commission of 1.25% was charged to convert them. Although the union was initially successful, wars and the financial instability brought about by the First World War caused the union to come to an end in 1927.
In 1873 Sweden and Denmark established a similar monetary union. Norway joined in 1875 and Scandinavian Monetary Union was officially formed. All three countries accepted each others' gold coins as legal tender in their territories. The union was very successful until Norway declared her political independence in 1924 and forced Sweden to announce the dissolution of the union.
The predecessor of the euro dates back to the early 1970s. In 1972, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Luxembourg agreed to use the so called "currency snake" system. The currencies of the six countries were only allowed to fluctuate against each other by a margin of 2.25%, like the undulations of a snake.
In 1979, the European monetary system was launched and the ecu (European Currency Unit), whose value was determined by a basket of European currencies, was also created. In the 1992 Maastricht treaty, a timetable for full monetary union and the use of the euro was laid down. The first day of a new era in the History of the unification of Europe was set to be January 1, 2002.