The Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) decided at an informal meeting held in Verona in the spring of 1996 that euro coins would have one common face, the same for all countries joining the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), and one national face specific to each country.
A technical report was commissioned from the heads of the EU mints on the specifications for the future coins, and after listening to the recommendations of experts and consumer associations, it was decided that the size of the euro coins would bear a direct relation to the nominal value. The coins would also be distinguishable by their colour.
The design contest
The Member States gave the European Commission the task of selecting the design of the common face, leaving the countries free to choose the motifs of the national faces, provided that they included the twelve stars of the EU.
The design contest, in which all Member States took part with the exception of Denmark, was limited to three themes: architecture, abstract design and elements of European identity.
In June 1997 the European Council, meeting in Amsterdam, chose the definitive project comprised of three sketches by Luc Luycx, a designer from the Belgian mint, whose proposal comprised three different representations of the map of Europe, with the twelve EU stars as a background.
The approved project was presented to consumers, to the European Blind Union and to various industrial sectors such as the vending machine industry, to ensure ease of use and to reduce the risk of fraud.
In 1998 the Council approved Regulation 975/98 with the nominal values and technical specifications of euro coins intended for circulation.
In April 1998 the Spanish prime minister presented the motifs chosen for the national face of the Spanish coins: the one and two euro coins showed the portrait of H.M. King Juan Carlos I and, since January 2015, the portrait of H.M. King Felipe VI; those of 10, 20 and 50 would show the portrait of Miguel de Cervantes; and those of 1, 2 and 5 cents the western (Obradoiro) facade of the Cathedral of Santiago of Compostela.
The motifs included were the work of the team of engravers at the Spanish public printing works: Garcilaso Rollán designed the 1, 2 and 5 cent coins; Begoña Castellanos designed those of 10, 20 and 50 cents; and Luis José Díaz those of 1 and 2 euros.
New common faces from 2007
On 7 June 2005 the Council decided that the common faces of the 10, 20 and 50 cent and 1 and 2 euro coins should be changed to represent all the EU member states following its enlargement from 15 to 25 members in 2004. The common faces of the 1, 2 and 5 cent coins, since they represent Europe in the world, did not need to be changed.