11 nations merged currencies to create the euro. Europe?s leaders say that the unified currancy will promote bussiness, underpin unity and strengthen their role in world affairs. Officially at midnight on New Year?s Eve the euro became the common currency of Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Portugal, Finland, Ireland and Luxembourg. This event is hailed as a historic turning point in Europes history. By uniting Europe has created a powerful new economic force. Britain, Denmark and Greece are also hoping to join in the next decade. ?If the postwar era ended nine years ago with the fall of the Berlin Wall, then our futures begins on Jan. 1, 1999, ? German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder wrote in the Handelsblatt bussiness daily. The new euro currency is worth 1.95583 German marks, 6.55957 France francs, 1,936.27 Italian lire, 166.386 Spanish pesetas. The euro is expected to opne the market at about $1.1665, 133 Japanese yen and 70 British pence. The currency will be slowly fazed in. The new euro notes and coins will not be issued to replace the Irish pounds, Portuguese escudos, Austrian schillings until 2002. The currency will however come into effect immediately for non-cash transactions ranging from government bond issues to credit card and check purchases. Euro figures will appear along side national currencies on pay checks, phone bills and bank statements. The United States dollar will now have a strong competator in the currency market. The euro-zone will be a powerful player in the world maket with its 20% of world economic output and 18% of world trade. ?The euro becomes the strong arm of the strongest economic region of the world,? Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima said in Vienna. ?From Lisbon to Helsinki, from Paris to Vienna, the euro is a remarkable symbol of our common identity,? said France Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn. ?Tomorrow I won?t be any less. French ? but we will all be a little more European.? ?Europe is finished the century by sending a message of peace,? said Italian Treasury Minister Carlo Ciampi. ?The conflicts that have so often gripped our continent are a thing of the past.? The union of the currency must be backed up quickly with progress to increase European cooperation in fields such as foreign affairs and defense. These views of closer political integration will fuel euro-skeptic opinion in those countries that have stayed out of the monetary union through fears of losing national independence.