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Economy

France blocks Belgian euro coin marking Battle of Waterloo

media Euro coins - not commemorating the Battle of Waterloo Reuters/Leonhard Foeger

France has won the Battle of Waterloo … or more precisely the battle over whether Belgium can issue a two-euro coin celebrating the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo. Brussels has been forced to scrap 180,000 coins worth 1.5-million-euros that it had already minted before Paris got wind of the affair.

Unlike banknotes, which feature generic scenes, individual countries decide on the design of euro coins, which then circulate throughout the eurozone.

Belgium decided to produce a coin marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon was defeated by the British and the Prussians, featuring an image of the monument at the site.

But Paris objected, saying that there would be an “unfavourable reaction in France” and that "the Battle of Waterloo has a particular resonance in the collective consciousness that goes beyond a simple military conflict".

"The circulation of these coins carrying a negative symbol for a section of the European population seems detrimental at a time when eurozone governments are trying to build unity and cooperation under the single currency," it said in a letter.

France reportedly won the support of several other countries and, since the question could have gone to a meeting of finance ministers, Belgium has had to scrap the plan to issue 270,000 of the coins.

But not before 180,000 had already been minted to be sold as collectors’ items in special boxes at a price of eight euros.

They will now have to be scrapped at a loss of 1.5 million euros, according to trade unionists at the finance ministry, which the ministry plans to make up by issuing a commemorative coin of a fictional value of 2.5 euros that will be available to collectors but not put into circulation.

"I am a bit surprised by all this agitation," Belgian Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt said in a statement. "Europe has plenty of other issues to deal with and challenges to overcome without wasting time and energy on this."

Belgium will mark the anniversary with a sound-and-light show and a reenactment of the battle in June.

Britain, which is not part of the eurozone, already has a five-pound piece commemorating the battle and featuring the British general, the Duke of Wellington, and Prussia's Marshall Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher.
 

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