Paper Money

French micro-currency circulates in Basque region

The “eusko,” a micro-currency from France, has received a fair amount of attention lately.

Image provided by Arthur L. Friedberg.

The euro does not appear to be in danger of being replaced anytime soon, but on a small basis, in communities throughout Europe, it has its rivals in the form of micro-currencies

There are as many as 60 of these in France, alone. One of them, the eusko, is so successful that it is the subject of several recent reports, including one by the BBC that says other European communities are trying to copy it.

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The eusko circulates in the Basque region, an enclave in France’s southwest corner. It is just to the east of the larger and more politically volatile community of the same name in Spain. The currency was started in 2013 with the modest aim of promoting the Basque culture and language and supporting local businesses by keeping money in the region. Today it is used by 17 municipal governments and 820 local business entities and organizations. 

By the end of 2018, over €1 million worth of euskos, which circulate at par with the euro, were in circulation, making it, the BBC claims, the most successful local currency in Europe. In comparison, €780,000 worth of Bristol pounds circulate in that English city, and €648,000 worth of chiemgauer circulate in Upper Bavaria.

Since the creation of online accounts in 2017, the eusko is also available as a digital currency, with a result of 60,000 euskos now being exchanged from euros each month, and two to three new eusko accounts being opened daily. The digital eusko comprises 60 percent of the currency in circulation.

Another result of its success is a spate of inquiries including from the Institute of the Circular Economy of Wales, and a Belgian association that supports more than 20 Belgian local currencies. Also, Jean-René Etchegaray, mayor of Bayonne and president of the Basque Municipal Community, told the BBC, “We are regularly contacted about local currency projects from throughout Spain.” 

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