Many are calling it the second battle over Waterloo — and this time, France won. A two-euro coin commemorating the bicentennial of Napoleon Bonaparte’s defeat will not be widely released, after France objected to what it called a “negative symbol.”
From Brussels, Teri Schultz reports for NPR:
“Belgian authorities say France complained to the European Union about plans to circulate a commemorative two-euro coin depicting the battlefield where Napoleon was defeated in 1815 by Britain and its allies, including the countries that are now Belgium and the Netherlands.
“The French wrote a letter saying such an image could hurt the coherence of the eurozone by offending French citizens.”
“The National Union of Public Services, which is responsible for the coin, is angry. In a statement, it says it would be irresponsible to cancel the project when the Belgian Royal Mint has already manufactured 180,000 of the coins, with the project costing more than $2.5 million. And, the union says, France is selling its own coins commemorating Waterloo — so it doesn’t want Belgium to admit defeat.”
Like other members of the eurozone, Belgium designs and issues its own coins; only paper currency is under central control in the economic union. The proposed design features a lion, evoking the Lion’s Mound monument at the historic battlefield south of Brussels.
“But Paris objected,” reports French news site RFI, “saying that there would be an ‘unfavourable reaction in France’ and that ‘the Battle of Waterloo has a particular resonance in the collective consciousness that goes beyond a simple military conflict.’ ”
Belgian website Flanders News spoke with several visitors to Waterloo, where re-enactments are held each June to mark the battle’s anniversary.
A British tourist tells the site he understands France’s reaction — but he adds, “It’s 200 years ago. They need to move on.”
“As far as I’m concerned, they can issue 10 coins,” a Dutch visitor says. “But I can imagine that that will not be beneficial for mutual understanding in Europe.”
Instead of forcing the issue to a vote before the European Council of Ministers, Belgian officials have decided to issue the existing coins only as a commemorative items, aimed at collectors.
As for the official Belgian response, RFI quotes Belgian Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt as saying, “I am a bit surprised by all this agitation.”