The EU's single currency officially came into being on January 1 1999, when exchange rates were fixed between an initial 11 member states, a group that was broadened to include Greece in 2001, Slovenia in 2007, Cyprus and Malta in 2008 and Slovakia in 2009. Euro coins and banknotes were issued in 2002. All EU members (with the exception of the UK and Sweden, which opted out of the euro at its inception) are required to join the single currency as soon as possible provided they meet the economic criteria. Monetary policy for all euro members is set by the ECB. The origins of the euro lie in the European Monetary System (EMS), which came into being in 1979 as part of an attempt by EU countries to prevent exchange rate fluctuations between their currencies following the U.S. government’s removal of the fixed link between the dollar and the official price of gold in 1971.
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