President Macron has been gifted a sample note to persuade him to back the idea.
Louis Giscard d’Estaing, the son of former president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, has been championing a €1 note for 15 years and points to the global recognition of the ‘buck’ dollar bill as a reason for the euro to create its own small note.
He is mayor of the Clermont-Ferrand suburb of Chamalières, the site of the Banque de France printing plant that prints France’s euro notes, and hosted Mr Macron to dinner to discuss his campaign and his hope that it will be an issue in next year’s European elections.
He told Connexion afterwards: “The strength of the dollar is helped by the fact that a one dollar bill is used across the world to give a tip, by tourists and for small purchases.
“The euro, if it is to compete as a reference as an international currency, needs to have a €1 note.
“A note gives a user a feeling that it has more value than a coin. And it will be nice for Euro-zone citizens to be able to tip with their own money when they travel.”
He says calls for a €1 bill are popular in Italy where, before the euro was brought in, the lowest denomination note was 1,000 lira, or 60 centimes. “The Italians know the value of having a low-value bank note.”
Mr Giscard d’Estaing started his campaign in 2003 and put the idea to Jean-Claude Trichet, the then president of the European Central Bank.
“For him the big problem was that they had agreed after much argument to have seven notes only, and there was no space for a €1 note.
“Now they are getting rid of the €500 note so that argument does not hold.”
The €500 note will no longer be issued from the end of 2018 due to concerns that it was used for illegal purposes and this has given Mr Giscard d’Estaing the chance to relaunch his bid.
However, the European Central Bank is unimpressed. “We are fully aware of the very valid argument of the political symbol of €1 but it is not one which was taken up because of the costs, in monetary and environmental terms, of having small denomination notes.”
And it does not seem as though the policy will change at any time soon with the Banque de France failing to express any enthusiasm for a change when Connexion asked.
In the last government, finance minister Michel Sapin even pushed for a move towards electronic payment and for France to become cashless.
Banque de France figures show notes cost from six to 10 centimes to print, while the Monnaie de Paris, which mints coins, says coins average three centimes each. (In Ireland, the cost of making a €1 coin is given at nine cents, probably reflecting lower volumes.)
Dearer manufacturing prices for banknotes are put down to the cost of security features against counterfeiting and the cost of collecting used notes, which wear out much quicker than coins, with low-value notes wearing out quicker than higher value ones.
But Mr Giscard d’Estaing is not giving up. “Banknotes are printed by central banks which are independent from finance ministries but are subject to political pressure. If they see support for the idea at EU elections then things might change.”