Belgium withdraws 'controversial' Waterloo coin under French pressure, but has a plan B
The story started with the Finance Department of the National Union of Public Services (NUOD) in Belgium - which is responsible for the coin - releasing a press report this morning, announcing that the 'Monnaie de Paris' is blocking a special two-euro coin to remember the Battle of Waterloo of 18 June 1815 (where the French troops of Napoleon Bonaparte suffered heavy losses and lost the war). The NUOD added that the French exerted pressure via the European institutions.
Apparently, France sent a letter to the European Council labelling the coin as a symbol that is negative for a fraction of the European population, claiming it would undermine the unity of the eurozone, Britain's The Telegraph wrote. Putting the coins in circulation "could trigger hostile reactions in France".
"The Battle of Waterloo is an event with particular resonance in the collective conscience, which goes beyond a simple military conflict", the letter states.
"The circulation of coins carrying a symbol that is negative for a fraction of the European population to us appears prejudicial, in a context where the governments of the Eurozone are trying to strengthen unity and co-operation throughout the monetary union."
Belgium gives in, but has a plan B
Belgium gave in to French and European pressure, it turned out this afternoon. Francis Adyns of the Federal Finance Department (FOD Financiën) confirmed there was strong opposition from France. "The French have the support of some major European countries. If it would come to a vote in Ecofin or the European Council of Ministers, France would win the vote anyway", a statement said.
This is not the end of the story for Belgium though. Adyns told the VRT that Belgium is to work out an alternative through a non-official coin. It would be worth 3 or 5 euros (there is no official euro coin with that value at present). France would have no say in the matter, because the commemoration money would be a 3 or 5 euro coin and other eurozone member states have no say in this, Francis Adyns explained.
The sales of the coins that have already been made, would have generated 2 million euros. It cost 50,000 euros to manufacture them.
"French are doing the same"
The French attempts sparked anger and fury among the NUOD that is launching the coin. Spokeswoman Manuela Wintermans told the VRT this morning that "the Belgian Royal Munt had already manufactured 180,000 coins. They are ready to be distributed. It would be irresponsible to destroy these, not to mention the costs that have already been made." The NUOD said in its press report that the whole cost for the project is estimated at 2.45 million euros.
Members of the NUOD have launched a campaign to counter the French, accusing them of similar practices. They spread photos via social media to prove that the French 'Monnaie de Paris' is also vending coins related to the Battle of Waterloo. (photo below) The coins that can be acquired there, are not official euro coins but just souvenir coins "but it's the same principle", critics add.