On 1 January 1999, more than 30,000 people joined a street party in front of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt to celebrate the launch of the euro and the first economic union in Europe since the Roman Empire. A band struck up a stirring tune to mark the historic day. Curiously, it was not Beethoven's "EU Anthem" but Land of Hope and Glory.
Eight years later, with Slovenia's rats joining the sinking ship, how different it all is. There is neither land, nor hope, nor glory and, it seems, even the French are turning against the project.
That much the Sunday Times told us yesterday, with an account of how a French diplomat who spent the festive period at his weekend home in rural France was astonished last week when a man in a DIY shop presented him with a bill in francs, rather than in euros, with the excuse: "I am sorry, monsieur, most of my clients prefer it that way."
Actually, it has never been any different, so I don't know where this "French diplomat" has been. Ever since the introduction of notes and coins on 1 January 2002, French shops have continued with dual pricing and, in some instances, show the prices only in Francs in the shop windows.
Nevertheless, we are told that hostility towards the single currency is growing as a wider malaise over an expanding Europe takes hold, making our diplomat "very pessimistic about the future" – and this blog very happy indeed, especially as the Libération newspaper noted in an editorial last week that the euro has been a far cry from the "very great federating power" that Hubert Védrine, the former French Socialist foreign minister, imagined for it.
"It has not had the effect of an integration lever that its founding fathers dreamt of," the paper wrote. "At a time when the European project has broken down ... you have to be a Slovene to feel any enthusiasm about joining the eurozone."
In another editorial today, the writer notes that it is the three that stayed out — Britain, Denmark and Sweden — that have prospered. In Britain, public opinion is granite hard for sterling, to the extent that no serious politician proposes joining the EU currency, and the lobby group set up to campaign for it has folded (only to be replaced with Open Europe).
And, with the advocates having concentrated on claiming that monetary union was inevitable, they are now on a loser. Remove the sense of inevitability and the entire construct collapses, says the paper. Yet that fool – albeit a dangerous fool – Geoff Hoon is saying that Britain will have to reach a compromise with the 18 EU member states that have already ratified the constitution.
That's the thing about these Europhiles – even when their beloved construct is in its grave, and rotting flesh is peeling from its carcase, they will still be mooning over it... necrophiliacs, one and all, they are.