Belgium on Monday began minting €2.50 coins to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo after France forced it to scrap a planned €2 coin to commemorate the battle, warning that it could provoke an "unfavourable reaction".
Earlier this year, Paris objected to the minting of a coin in memory of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s final defeat to British and Prussian forces, saying it would create tensions at a time when Europe's unity was under threat.
Belgium was forced to get rid of all 180,000 of the €2 coins that had already been minted after Paris sent a letter saying they could cause an "unfavourable reaction in France".
But Belgium this week sidestepped the French protests by using a rule that allows eurozone countries to issue coins unilaterally if they are an irregular denomination – in this case, €2.50.
Napoleon Bonaparte was forced into exile after his grand European ambitions were crushed by the Duke of Wellington's forces at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815, which took place on what is now the outskirts of Brussels.
France said in its initial letter to Belgium that the battle "has a particular resonance in the collective consciousness that goes beyond a simple military conflict".
But Belgian Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt said the new coins – of which there will be 70,000 – were not being released in a deliberate bid to upset the French.
"The goal is not to revive old quarrels. In a modern Europe, there are more important things to sort out," he said on Monday.
"But there's been no battle in recent history as important as Waterloo, or indeed one that captures the imagination in the same way."
The €2.50 coins will be usable in Belgian shops, but collectors are expected to snap up many of them. Sold in special plastic bags priced at €6, they show the Lion's Mound monument that stands at the battlefield site as well as lines indicating the positions of the troops.
Several thousand copies of a specially minted silver coin – with a face value of €10 but sold at €40 – will also be released.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2015-06-10