While the ECB is responsible for determining the euro-zone's supply of bank notes, it doesn't actually print them; instead it outsources the work to central banks of a few euro-zone countries (one of which is Greece). As WSJ reports, the Greek central bank's bank-note printing facility is called IETA. Built in 1941, the Attica plant today is outfitted with "state-of-the-art machinery," and has been responsible for printing batches of €10 notes, according to the ECB.
As The Wall Street Journal reports (2011),
In Greece, widely regarded as the country most likely to leave the euro zone because of its fiscal problems, the central bank has a bank-note printing facility called IETA. Built in 1941, the Attica plant today is outfitted with "state-of-the-art machinery," according to the Bank of Greece's website. But IETA's printing in recent years has been limited. It has been one of five or six countries responsible for printing batches of €10 notes, according to the ECB.
Athens has buzzed with rumors over the past year that the Bank of Greece was secretly printing drachmas, Greece's pre-euro currency. Widely circulated joke emails featured drachma bank notes bearing the image of then-Prime Minister George Papandreou. The rumors at times have been blamed for triggering waves of withdrawals from Greek retail banks.
A Bank of Greece spokesman said the bank isn't looking for ways to boost its printing capacity. "There has been no talk regarding this issue," he said.
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Welcome to IETA...
The Banknote Printing Works of the Bank of Greece (IETA), based in Holargos (currently part of the Municipality of Halandri, Attica), was set up by a decision of the Bank's General Council dated 7 June 1938 and its original purpose was to print banknotes (paper bills) for the Bank, as well as government securities.
The IETA building complex was completed in 1941, and the first printing machinery was bought and installed there that same year.
Operations effectively started after the end of World War II, with the production of the 1947 1,000 drachma banknote (Series IV) and of cheques and other securities for the Bank and the Greek government.
Since 1971, when the Ministry of Finance entrusted the Bank of Greece with the production of legal tender and commemorative coins, the IETA facilities have also housed the National Mint. The National Mint was organised in line with Western European standards and was equipped with state-of-the-art machinery for the manufacturing of coin dies and the striking of legal tender coins, commemorative and collectors' coins, medals, etc.
The production of coins effectively started in 1972.
By a decision of the Bank's General Council dated 12 January 1972, the Banknote Printing Works was incorporated as a separate Department (IETA Department) into the organisational structure of the Bank of Greece; this status is maintained to this day.
The IETA today
is a pioneering printing house, delivering products which, apart from their outstanding aesthetic value, meet high security standards and offer maximum protection against counterfeiting is equipped with state-of-the-art machinery, and its production processes are in line with the industry's best practices at the European level is staffed by highly qualified and experienced professionals (engineers, technicians and artists) conducts strict quality controls all along the production chain, from raw materials to packaged products, conforming with relevant international standards.
The IETA mainly engages in the following activities:
1. Production of banknotes
The main task within this line of business is the production of euro banknotes issued following approval by the European Central Bank (ECB) and according to the designs, specifications and security features established by the ECB. The quantities and denominations allocated to the Bank of Greece (and to the IETA on its behalf) form part of the total volume of euro banknotes produced annually to cover the needs of the Eurosystem. According to the banknote production framework established by the ECB, each printing works may produce up to three different euro banknote denominations.
2. Production of coins
The main task within this line of business is the production of euro coins according to the specifications and security features established by the ECB. The designs of the common European side of euro coins have been determined by the competent EU institutions (the European Commission and the ECB) and applies to all coins of the same denomination, irrespective of the issuing country. The designs of the national side of Greek euro coins have been selected by the Greek Ministry of Finance in cooperation with the Bank of Greece. The Ministry of Finance is the issuer of coins in our country, as is the case with the respective Ministries in all other euro area countries. The IETA also produces commemorative coins and medals in the context of the annual numismatic programme of the Greek Ministry of Finance.
3. Printing of Greek government paper and other special security documents, such as certification documents etc.
4. the IETA prints the official stationery of the Bank of Greece, as well as all the Bank's reports and other publications.
More specifically, the IETA:
- uses state-of-the-art machinery fitted with all the required safety and warning devices and ensures regular maintenance for safe operation
- uses advanced fire protection systems
- ensures the existence and maintenance of the necessary safety signs and signals in its premises
- seeks to minimise the use of hazardous substances
- supplies its staff with all the necessary personal safety equipment (masks, special uniforms, goggles, etc.) and provides training in proper use provides staff training in the safe operation of machinery and handling of materials has established cooperation arrangements with an external health and safety service provider, according to the legislation in force, and procedures for addressing any recommendations by the Safety Officer and/or Occupational Physician.
- At the same time, preparations are under way in order to obtain ISO 18000 certification for the IETA's Health and Safety Management System.
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One wonders how tempted the Greeks will be to take matters into their own ink-stained hands, should the ECB/Germany/Eurogroup pull the plug without acquiescing to their non-ultimatum "take it or leave it" offer...