Religious controversy over a 2 euro coin
Once a year any country of the euro zone may issue a €2 commemorative coin. These coins are designed to commemorate for example anniversaries of important historical events or events happening at present.
Finland has issued a €2 commemorative coin in 2004 to commemorate the so far largest enlargement of the European Union by ten new Member States. Finnish €2 commemorative coins have also represented the 90th anniversary of Finland's independence or the 200th anniversary of Finnish autonomy, to mention but few.
In the year 2013 Slovakia plans to commemorate the 1150th anniversary of the arrival of the mission of Cyril and Methodius to areas of today's modern day Czech Republic and Slovakia. Cyril and Methodius were Byzantine brothers, born in Thessaloniki. Their mother tongue was Greek and they also spoke local Slavic language. They created the Glagolitic alphabet which gave rise to the Cyrillic alphabets. This enabled the Bible and other texts to be translated into Slavic languages. Thus, the fourth classical holy language was born aside Hebrew, Ancient Greek and Latin: Ancient Church Slavic language which unites all the Eastern Europeans and their languages. Certainly a reason to commemorate!
The former Pope John Paul II declared these apostles of Slavs as patrons of Europe.
However, the design of the coin has caused what can only be described as a storm in a glass.
When a euro zone country wants to issue a new €2 commemorative coin, it is required to send a draft design of the coin to the Council, the European Commission and to other euro zone countries.
The draft design of the Slovak coin came in the light of media because some Member States did not agree that it should contain crosses and saints' halos. They argue that euro coin designs should comply with the principle of respect for religious diversity in Europe. For some, Christian symbols were present too much.
The crisis never came anything more than that. In the end the National bank of Slovakia has decided that the €2 commemorative coin will contain the original draft design of the anniversary of the arrival of the mission of Cyril and Methodius to Great Moravia and Panonia.
Such an important historical event should by all means be remembered in a coin. This could also be seen as a great opportunity to spread knowledge of local and regional histories that the different European countries have undergone. United in diversity is a richness of Europe - a richness that we ought to embrace rather than hide. When you find a saint with his halo in your pocket, you can think of the variety of histories the European Union is composed of.
Europe's richness is not in euro-coins; it is a much deeper and more comprehensive concept and attribute. To say the least euro has now become a cross in itself.
Member of the European Parliament
Published in Helsinki Times 31.1.2013.
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