The national central banks (NCBs) of the euro area and the European Central Bank decide on the annual production volumes of euro banknotes based on the need to replace unfit banknotes and the demand for cash.
The production of euro banknotes is a combined effort by the NCBs and the European Central Bank (ECB). It begins with calculations for the number of banknotes required each year. Enough new banknotes need to be produced to replace unfit banknotes, to meet expected increases in demand – such as seasonal peaks – and to cope with unexpected surges in demand.
Forecasts of the demand for euro banknotes for the year ahead are provided by the NCBs, and a central forecast is made by the ECB.
In order to produce the banknotes efficiently, printing is shared among the different NCBs. The ECB allocates production volumes to a number of NCBs, which then supply a specific proportion of the total annual production of one or more denominations. For example, the Belgian, German, Italian and Spanish central banks produced 1.5 billion €50 banknotes in 2012.
Consistent quality and security
Around 16 high-security printing works in Europe produce the banknotes. The notes are subsequently distributed among the different NCBs.
This pooling arrangement and a common quality management system ensure a uniform standard for all euro banknotes. Throughout the production process, hundreds of manual and automated tests are performed to guarantee that banknotes from all the printing plants are identical.
Redistribution where necessary
Euro banknotes tend not to remain in the country where they were issued. People travelling on business or on holiday take them to other euro area countries and spend them there. Under the supervision of the ECB, the NCBs redistribute the banknotes to avoid shortages or surpluses in any one country.
Several printing processes
Just like the first series of euro banknotes, the Europa banknotes will be printed on pure cotton-fibre paper, which gives them their special crispness and resists wear better than regular paper. Certain security features, such as watermarks and embedded threads, form part of the paper itself.
Different types of plates, special inks and several processes are used: offset and intaglio printing, hot-stamping for the hologram and silk screen printing for the numbers that change colours.
Take a look at the production of the Europa series €5 banknote