The Eurozone is a monetary and economic union comprised of 18 European nations that have adopted the Euro as their legal currency.
The Euro is nicknamed the single currency as it is the sole currency in use across the 18 Eurozone nations.
The Euro was introduced in 1999 and was hailed as a major step forward towards European integration and is now used by around 330 million European citizens as their sole currency.
To begin with, the Euro was phased into usage gradually and was mostly used for non-cash payments and accounting purposes whilst the old currencies continued to be used for cash purposes.
The Euro officially became used for cash payments on January 1, 2002.
Now, over ten years after its introduction the Euro is one of the main causes for the Euro crisis that has crippled the economies of a number of the Eurozone’s member states.
18 European countries use the Euro and are members of the Eurozone trading bloc.
The nations that currently use the Euro are Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Finland, Greece, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Slovakia, Estonia and Latvia.
There are several other countries that are seeking entry into the Eurozone.
Latvia is the most recent addition to the Eurozone, having joined in 2014.
European Central Bank
The ECB is the institution that oversees monetary policy in the Eurozone.
One of the flaws of the Euro is that it is the ECB that decides all member nations’ interest rates. The ECB also decides whether or not to print money.
Due to the imbalances in the economies of the Eurozone member nations, this does not help the weaker ones.
Due to it overseeing one of the world’s largest currency areas the ECB is thus one of the world’s most important Central Banks.