EU urges banks to speed up ATM conversion

EU urges banks to speed up ATM conversion

The European Commisssion is calling on banks to speed up the adaptation of ATMs to dispense euro notes, as the new year deadline looms for the changeover to the single currency.

In a progress report on changeover preparations, Pedor Solbes, commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, welcomed the "enormous progress made by the vast majority of banks" to convert cash machines.

But he called on "the banks which are lagging behind to review their plans in order to speed up the adaptation of ATMs to euros and so avoid any significant practical difficulties for shops to give change in euros".

Banks in Finland and Portugal have been identified as well behind their European neighbours in preparing cash machines for the changeover.

Other concerns centre around the participation of traders in "sub frontloading", ie holding euro notes and coins in advance of the deadline, and underpreparedness among small and medium-sized enterprises.

Logistical risks concern the storage and transport of cash, and possible shortages of smaller denomination banknotes.

Solbes says contingency plans are being drawn up in an EU-wide effort to make the changeover "as painless as possible".

He says the production of euros is on schedule. By the end of September, more than 11 billion euro banknotes and 46.8 billion euro coins had already been produced, quantities that cover the overall requirements for the initial launch.

Euro coins will be available from 14 December at the earliest and will also be brought into circulation rapidly in the first days of January.

Simulations show that the majority of the population will have received euro banknotes from banks by 5 January. The pace of introduction will be even faster than initially envisaged, says Solbes, with the bulk of the switch taking only a week.

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