Bel­gium raises French ire with coin mark­ing Napoleon de­feat

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Bel­gium on Mon­day be­gan mint­ing 2.5-euro coins mark­ing the 200th an­niver­sary of Napoleon’s de­feat of at the Battle of Water­loo, af­ter France forced it to scrap a two-euro coin of the same pur­pose.

Paris ob­jected to the new Bel­gian coin, com­mem­o­rat­ing the French em­peror’s de­feat by Bri­tish and Prus­sian forces, ear­lier this year, say­ing it would cre­ate ten­sions at a time when Europe’s unity is un­der threat.

Bel­gium was forced to get rid of around 180,000 two-euro coins that had al­ready been minted af­ter Paris sent a let­ter say­ing they could cause an “un­fa­vor­able re­ac­tion in France.”

But Bel­gium has man­aged to skirt the French protests us­ing a rule that al­lows eu­ro­zone coun­tries to uni­lat­er­ally is­sue coins if they are in an ir­reg­u­lar de­nom­i­na­tion — in this case, 2.5 eu­ros.

Napoleon Bon­a­parte was forced into ex­ile af­ter his grand Euro­pean am­bi­tions were crushed at the hands of the Duke of Welling­ton’s forces at the Battle of Water­loo on June 18, 1815, which took place on what is now the out­skirts of Brussels.

France had said in its ini­tial let­ter to Bel­gium that the battle “has a par­tic­u­lar res­o­nance in the col­lec­tive con­scious­ness that goes be­yond a sim­ple mil­i­tary con­flict.”

But Bel­gian Fi­nance Min­is­ter Jo­han Van Overtveldt said the new coins — of which there will be 70,000 — were not be­ing re­leased in a de­lib­er­ate bid to anger France.

“The goal is not to re­vive old quar­rels. In a mod­ern Europe, there are more im­por­tant things to sort out,” he said Mon­day.

“But there’s been no battle in re­cent his­tory as im­por­tant as Water­loo, or in­deed one that cap­tures the imag­i­na­tion in the same way.”

The 2.5-euro coins will be us­able in Bel­gian shops, but col­lec­tors are ex­pected to snap many of them up.

Sold in spe­cial plas­tic bags priced at six eu­ros, they show the Lion’s Mound mon­u­ment that stands at the bat­tle­field site, as well as lines in­di­cat­ing the po­si­tion of the troops.

Sev­eral thou­sand copies of a sil­ver coin — with a face value of 10 eu­ros, but sold at 40 eu­ros — will also be re­leased.

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