A lark is one of the most common birds in Europe. It has brown plumage, the ability to sing for 30 minutes without a break, and as of 2026, it could also be used to buy breakfast. This and other birds aspire to be the symbols of future euro notes. The European Central Bank (ECB) announced on Monday that it has prepared a survey for citizens to choose the next topic and possible designs for paper money, which the institution will issue within three years.
An advisory committee of experts has shortlisted six voteable proposals with designs that represent the values of the EU: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law and human rights.
The suggestions range from the connection of these concepts with the European natural environment to drawing bird species on each of the banknotes, going through the route, from the source –5 euros– to the mouth –200 euros–, of a river through the different European landscapes. The first of them, “European values are reflected in nature”, bets on 10-euro banknotes in which a mountain range appears, while on the reverse one could see “the hands of a baby touching or holding those of an elderly person”, to represent human dignity.
Another case would be that of the 50 bills, equality, which would show a forest with trees “that look the same, but are different and contribute equitably to the forest” and, on the back, an image that shows “for example, a doctor treating a patient and surrounded by students.”
This first proposal, according to the ECB, unites the two ideas that were most noted in the advisory council – nature and European values, which “transcend all borders” -. However, the ECB stresses that these ideas are “abstract” to be successfully represented.
Another more concrete proposal, and one that also transcends borders, is that of the birds. The idea is not accidental: it would commemorate one of the first directives that the EU took on environmental matters in 1979, which aspired to protect 500 wild species of birds. The ECB also highlights that birds “do not care about natural barriers (…) they enrich the world without exhausting it, as we should do”.
The aforementioned lark is the proposal for the 5-euro bill. But there is more: a cuckoo for the 10 euro bill, an owl for the 50 euro bill or a hoopoe or a ratchet for the 200 euro bill; some species in danger of extinction that “should inspire preservation”, exposes the advisory team.
However, birds are not a tasteful dish for everyone, as recognized by the institution itself. As they note, the proposal stands out for being “readable”, “inclusive” and for being a “bold message”, but “some people do not like birds or are afraid of them (ornithophobia) (SIC)”. In addition, “other countries also have birds on their banknotes.”
The other proposals that the institution is considering are concepts that also seek to highlight European values. Some portray the European future, such as the proposal “The future is yours” that will represent everything from education and knowledge, in the lowest value bills, to democracy in the 200-euro bill.
It also highlights a proposal that would follow the course of a river through the European landscape, crossing various countries and cities, until, in the highest value ticket, it would flow into the sea.
Finally, the consultative committee includes two proposals that would represent the “hands that have built Europe through our common values”.
The other idea that they are considering is related to identity, which would try to draw “the individual and collective lives of the people who reside in Europe through six different dimensions: being, doing, thinking, loving, communicating and living”. In the latter case, they specify, for the 5-euro bill, the appearance of images of bodies and faces is being considered -it would represent being- or for the 100-euro bill -living- some lungs, nature, animals and biodiversity.
The final theme that will appear on the banknotes will be chosen before the end of 2024. The production and entry into circulation of paper money will take place throughout the year 2026.
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