Few births have been as prolonged or as painful as that of the euro, Europe's single currency. It was a twinkle in the eye of Europeans beginning in the 1960s, who enviously coveted the advantages that the dollar bestowed on America.
Could something similar be made to work in Europe? Its birth was announced on December 1995 and introduced to financial markets on January 1999, struggling along as a shadow currency known as an European Currency Unit (Ecu).
Finally on January 1 2001, after a long gestation, Europeans finally got their hands on the currency. Launched at par to the dollar, first it shrank in value then zoomed up and up.
Now nearly 350 million Europeans use the currency on a daily basis, while another 175 million have currencies pegged to the euro, including more than 150 million in Africa.
But can the euro last or will it bring down the EU in a crash? The jury may still be out on that, but in a week as tumultuous as any in its short, chequered career, with turmoil in the banking sector and strikes in Italy over planned austerity measures, we managed to track down the single currency, bronzed and shiny after its long summer holiday on the French Riviera, and asked it a few questions such as: is it the original eurotrash, who are its parents, and what would happen if it ceased to exist?
Your accent puzzles me. Where are you from?
Well of course, you know I am European, so I speak English with an accent that is part Portuguese, slightly French, definitely Germanic, a little bit of Italian and Spanish and with hardly a trace of Greek at all.
Who are your parents?
Jean-Claude Trichet at the European Central Bank is looking after me at the moment. He's a Frenchman who thinks like a German, thank goodness. I'm getting a bit nervous because my next custodian is going to be an Italian called Mario Monti. I'm worried I might become worthless.
But unlike most other currencies, you don't "promise to pay the bearer". Why not?
That's a bit tricky. Nobody has actually accepted responsibility for me and there is no fiscal framework to repay the notes. I can't draw any of my inheritance down, which I think is one of the problems at the moment. I think the Greeks have spent it all.
So who named you?
They say it was a Belgian.
That explains everything?
Germain Pirlot, a former teacher of French and history who is an Esperanto speaker, wrote a letter to Jacques Santer, then-president of the European Commission, suggesting the name.
You like it?
It's short and catchy, although I think the Germans would prefer it if I were called Deutschmark.
And the squiggle? Who came up with that?
Do you mean the elegant symbol? I've no idea, but it's rather stylish, non?
I think it's nothing more but a copy of the dollar.
How dare you!
Talking of which, how do you get on with your peers? You know the dollar, the pound, the yuan, the yen etc.
I have a good relationship with most of them. The dollar used to be quite aggressive, but now it seems to have lost some of its bite. The yuan I hardly see at all, although people tell me that one day it will be as powerful as me, we'll see. The pound makes a lot of noise and had a good run, but I think soon it will worth even less than I am. The one that does annoy me is gold. Shiny and pointless, people are willing to give me away in ever greater quantities just to get their hands on the stuff.
Do you have any nicknames? You know like the dollar is called the greenback, buck, Americano etc.
Back in 2006 Prague TV launched a nickname competition for me. About the best was 'Teuro'. As you can imagine, it hasn't caught on. I've been called a Yo-Yo in Ireland, but everyone gets called things in Ireland, then they forget in the morning.
Maybe it is because nobody likes you. They say the loved child has many names. Your looks have also been criticised. What's with the bridges?
How dare you! The bridges were all quite beautiful and Robert Kalina, the Austrian who designed them, was much maligned. My looks have changed since then anyway.
Could we ever get rid of you?
I hope not. As far as I'm aware, there are no provisions in place to replace me. Sometimes I feel like a hotel room in a high-storey building without a fire exit. There is no escape and a lot of the inhabitants are complaining, particularly the Portuguese, Greeks, Irish, Italians and Spanish.
What about the Europeans that refuse to accept you? Do you feel rejected?
Ach, that was mainly the British. That lovely Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. They told me secretly that they wanted me, but told everyone in Britain that it would depend on a few conditions being met, including are business cycles and economic structures compatible so that we and others could live comfortably with euro interest rates on a permanent basis, is there sufficient flexibility, would joining EMU create better conditions for jobs and investment and what would it do for the City? In short, it's so ambiguous that you'd think it had been written by a Brussels' bureaucrat.
People say you're nothing better than eurotrash. How do you answer that?
I won't deign to dignify such a question with a response. Au revoir, mein Herr.