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New Euro Banknotes – It Will Be One of These Two Themes

By Lisa Scheffert, translated by Rosa Haseeb

Euro banknotes are usually to be redesigned every ten to fifteen years. After the second series of euro banknotes entered circulation step by step starting in 2013, it is once again time for a new look – even if the last notes in this series were not issued until 2019. In contrast to the first redesign of 2013, this time new themes and motifs will be chosen for the notes and the previous “Ages and Styles” theme will be replaced. Redesigning and issuing the new banknotes is a process that will take years. Plans for this were already announced by the ECB in December 2021. By now, the ECB’s Governing Council has selected two out of seven possible themes.


Since the euro introduction, bridges, doorways and windows were depicted on banknotes. This is set to come to an end in a few years

Since the euro introduction, bridges, doorways and windows were depicted on banknotes. This is set to come to an end in a few years.

How Is the Redesign Process Organised?

In principle, the redesign process can roughly be divided into two phases. In a first step, an overall theme must be selected, for which motifs are chosen in a design contest in a second step. However, on closer inspection, these two steps are much more detailed.

The ECB decided to launch the redesign process back in December 2021. A Theme Advisory Group was then appointed to propose six broad categories for new euro banknotes. A representative study came up with a seventh theme, “European culture”, which is intended to reflect the opinions of the European public. Opinion research plays an important role throughout the entire process. Once the ECB’s Governing Council had agreed on the seven themes, the next step was to launch several opinion research initiatives, including a public survey on the popularity of the seven themes in the summer of 2023. The ECB actually wanted to decide on one of the seven themes on this basis in 2024 and then enter the second phase of the redesign process, selecting potential motifs and preparing a design competition for the theme. Well, that was the plan.

However, at the end of November, it was announced that the search for motifs would begin with two themes. A Theme Advisory Group is now to develop motifs for the two proposed themes by the end of 2024. A contest will then be organised for the design of the new banknotes and Europeans will once again have the opportunity to express their opinions. The ECB is expected to decide on the final design of the banknotes in 2026.

The Themes in the Final

The first finalist theme is “European culture”. The topic, which was determined by a representative study, was the favourite of Europeans in a survey initiated by the ECB and received 21% of the votes. It was described as follows: “Europe’s rich cultural heritage and dynamic cultural and creative sectors strengthen the European identity, forging a shared sense of belonging. Culture promotes common values, inclusion and dialogue in Europe and across the globe. It brings people together.” Despite the fine words, it is still completely unclear what motifs will be used to represent this extremely broad theme. 

The second suggested topic in the final is “Rivers and birds”. This is a combination of the second and third places in the survey: “Rivers: Water of life in Europe” (18%) and “Birds: free, resilient, inspiring” (17%). The ECB’s reasoning: “Rivers and birds recognise no borders, symbolising freedom and unity amongst Europeans and our connection to nature. Europe boasts a wide variety of rivers and birds that inspire us and remind us of our responsibility to protect the environment.”

Also in the summer vote, these three topics were far ahead of the other four. ECB President Christine Lagarde commented: “We are very happy with the strong participation in our online survey. Both of the chosen themes share a common thread of connecting Europe and Europeans, and this is very much in keeping with our goal of making banknotes more relatable to people of all ages and backgrounds.”

It may be years before the ECB decides when the new banknotes will be issued. Photo: Norbert Nagel CC 4.0

It may be years before the ECB decides when the new banknotes will be issued. Photo: Norbert Nagel CC 4.0

Why Do We Need New Banknotes with New Designs?

The ECB states that creating new banknotes increases the counterfeit protection of the currency. But that is not the only reason. People in the EU should be able to identify with the motifs on the banknotes. The notes are a symbol of European unity and must therefore be adapted every few years.

The ECB is also committed to making the banknotes as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible. New technologies and materials could also play a role in the production of new euro banknotes. Nevertheless, the ECB states that the banknotes, which are made of cotton fibre, will remain the same in terms of material, size, colour and denomination.

When Will the New Banknotes Be Released?

After the redesign of the euro banknotes is complete, the ECB’s Governing Council will decide when to produce and issue them. The decision is scheduled for 2026, but after that, it will still take some years before the first banknotes end up in our pockets.

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