Has the Euro made everything more expensive ?
According to the Belgian RTBF TV channel (state-funded equivalent of the BBC), it hasn't. A special programme a few days ago announced that 90% of the Belgians, and 95% of the French and Italians were convinced that the euro had caused prices to soar.
A team of journalist investigated on the matter, and compared priced of daily commodities in late 2001 (just before the euro), and late 2005. The results were shocking. Not only have the prices not increased more than the official inflation of 2% a year, but some supermarket products even ended up being cheaper than 4 years ago. They filled up a shopping cart at random in a supermarket, then compared the total sum to pay with what it would have cost in 2001 (asking the supermarket management for historical prices). Whereas some products like beer and bottled water have indeed become much more expensive (up 30%), others like some kinds of bread or toilet paper have become cheaper. Overall, out of 3 shopping carts in 3 different supermarkets, 2 were cheaper in 2005 than in 2001.
They noted that many cafes and restaurants had indeed disproportionately increased their prices by rounding up prices to the next euro (in other words, cheated their customers). So a drink that used to cost 0.65 euro was often rounded up to 1 euro, which is a serious increase. But that is only due to cafes and restaurants owners' own decision, as prices elsewhere have not been rounded up like that.
My personal experience of the euro is not the same as most European's. I went to live in Japan just a few months before the euro, only to come back in late 2005. I can thus compare my image of the prices exactly as it was 4 years ago and now. After nearly 2 months here, my image was that many things were cheaper than I had remembered, which surprised me hearing everybody around me saying that life had gotten so expensive. Petrol and it's derived products (plastic...) or services (buses, ait travel...) have of course got dearer. But this is not a European phenomenon, and even less caused by the euro.
Compared to prices in Tokyo, life in Belgium really seem so cheap (although salaries are similar). 1 liter of milk is 2x cheaper, cheese and yoghurts are 3 to 4x cheaper, cereals are 2x cheaper except muesli which is 4 to 5x cheaper, bottled water is still several times cheaper (although it did get a bit more expensive), meat is 2 to 3x cheaper, and some fruits are 5 to 20x cheaper ! With more and more products made in China, clothes and electronics have generally got cheaper or only slightly more expensive.
One thing that did get noticeably more expensive is real estate, but that is due to low interest rates and unstable stock-exchange performances. Now, the nice suburbs of southern Brussels have got more expensive than central Tokyo.
In conclusion, most Euro-zoners' impression that the euro has caused prices to skyrocket is unjustfied. I believe that they have been fooled by external causes (increased oil prices, low interest rates...) and their own inability to translate prices from their old national currency into euro properly. Many of the interviewees complained that prices in euro seemed so cheap, and that consequently they used more money than before because they were not yet used to it. A eurobarometer showed that 36% of the Belgians indeed spent more by not realising how much things really cost.