From the Maastricht treaty to the feared meltdown of Europe's single currency: some of the key steps in the birth of the euro. Vanessa Johnston reports.
At the end of a century that saw two world wars...Europe ushered in their new common currency -- the euro -- amid a flurry of excitement and optimism. But as talks swirl of a possible Greek exit ahead of Sunday's referendum, many are wondering...where did it all go wrong? The monetary union was launched in the Dutch town of Maastricht in 1992..followed by conversion rates in '98. Then French Finance Minister, a certain Dominque Strauss-Kahn said it was a giant leap forward. (SOUNDBITE) (English) THEN FRENCH FINANCE MINISTER, DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN, SAYING: "I'm really convinced that this 31st of December 98 will appear as a historical day where the euro has been launched and a wonderful step forward in the building of Europe has been achieved." But a decade later, the global financial crisis hit. Greece couldn't pay its debts and turned to its European partners for help - but there were conditions. And many protesters took to the streets to voice their growing anger against austerity. Then French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, warned of dire consequences if the euro fell apart. (SOUNDBITE) (French) THEN FRENCH PRESIDENT, NICOLAS SARKOZY, SAYING: "What will remain of Europe, if the euro disappears? What will remain of Europe, if it's economic heart collapses? Nothing." Eurozone leaders bailed out Greece for a second time in 2012. Years later, Athens stands at a crossroads. This week, it defaulted on a 1.6 billion euro debt to the IMF, shuttered its banks, and began rationing cash. Now Greece's leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is leaving it up to the public to decide whether to accept international creditors' tough bailout conditions, or risk becoming the first country to leave the eurozone.