Paris — Euro coins stashed in trucks with security escorts began their journey Saturday to banks or brief temporary storage in some of the dozen European countries that will start using the common currency on Jan. 1.
Tons of coins were moved out in France, Germany, Belgium and Spain and some other countries in an operation expected to take several months.
But, with security a top priority, everywhere the word was mum. Officials refused to say how much was being moved to where.
Euro notes, considered the riskier cargo, were to be delivered this month in a handful of countries Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Ireland and Finland.
France and the Netherlands are not starting to deliver euro notes until Dec. 1.
Saturday, trucks with police escorts began moving out some 7.6 billion euro coins from temporary depots around France to tens of thousands of banks, post offices and offices of the Treasury.
The 32,000 tons of coins that must crisscross France over the next 13 weeks are equal to the weight of four Eiffel Towers.
In Germany, guarded trucks began transporting coins across the north of the country.
The first truck set off from a storage point in the city of Hanover, according to Joachim Nagel, a spokesman for the regional central bank of Lower Saxony, Bremen and Saxony-Anhalt. The trucks carrying up to 15 tons of coins each were departing about every 45 minutes, Nagel said.
Unlike in France, Germany was transporting the money for interim storage at armored car companies' warehouses. It is to be moved next week to commercial banks.
Civil Guards and National Police escorts were accompanying deliveries in Spain. In Belgium, coins were removed from sealed wooden boxes and delivered to banks in security vans.
Some countries were starting deliveries Monday, or, like Greece, later in the week.
Fear of armed attacks is among the leading concerns.
France has established a euro transport command post at the Interior Ministry and put in place a special security plan "Vigi-euro," as it did during a spate of deadly terrorist attacks around the country during the 1990s. But discretion is the watchword, and details of the plan were not available.
Last week, special trains guarded by soldiers and police moved out from manufacturing points in Pessac, in the southwest, and Chamalieres, in central France, to 81 depots around France.
The weight of the coins and the relatively small amount each shipment represents makes them less of a security risk than the notes.
But France faced an additional fear: a strike by armored car personnel handling deliveries should anything go wrong. With 15 armored guards killed in France since 1995, the latest death in August, a foul-up now could lead to a strike, some have warned.
"We're sitting on a bomb with a big fuse," said Roger Poletti, head of the Workers' Force transport division.