FOR THE FIRST TIME since the fall of the Roman Empire, much of Western Europe now has a single currency.At the beginning of January the 11- nation European Monetary Union came into being and, with it, a new currency, the euro. Though Europe's familiar national banknotes will remain in circulation for three more years, the official currency of the EMU is the euro.
The European Monetary Union is the latest step in a decades-long movement toward integration in Western Europe. Soon after the end of World War II, French leaders Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman adopted European integration as the means to embrace Germany and keep it oriented to the West. German political leaders from Konrad Adenauer to Helmut Kohl and now Gerhard Schroeder have backed the policy, and France and Germany have consistently led the European integration movement. Ironically, though the motivation on both sides of the Rhine has been political, integration has been pursued almost entirely through economic and monetary means.