3rd Dec 2023

Brussels urges new states to promote euro as public support drops

With fresh figures showing that public support for the euro is on the decrease in new member states, the European Commission on Friday urged governments to step up efforts to explain the EU currency’s benefits.

European monetary affairs commissioner Joaquin Almunia told journalists on Friday (4 November) that those countries aiming to adopt the euro in 2007 and 2008 should "step up their information campaigns" in the light of citizens' uneasiness with the euro.

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Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia have targeted 2007 as an entry date, while Cyprus, Latvia and Malta have earmarked 2008.

However, a Eurobarometer survey conducted for the commission and released Friday shows that support among new member states’ citizens for the euro is falling.

Thirty eight percent of respondents believe that the introduction of the EU currency will have positive consequences for their country, while 46 percent think its influence will be negative.

A year ago, the number of people with positive feelings towards the euro still outweighed that of the sceptics.

Furthermore, the general feeling of "happiness" over the prospect of the euro is on the decrease.

The gap between those who are happy with the euro replacing their national currency (37 percent) and those who are unhappy (53 percent ) has grown from 5 to 16 points since last year.

Percentages of people unhappy with the euro are highest in the Baltic states Estonia (64 percent), Latvia (64 percent) and Lithuania (69 percent), which are among the first countries set to join in 2007-2008.

On the other hand, Slovenia, which is also a frontrunner, is the country that is the most happy with the euro, with 58 percent of Slovenians endorsing the currency.

Fear of abuse and inflation

Commissioner Almunia said the figures were "linked in some sense to [negative] public opinion on Europe in general," but he also pointed to the survey revealing that many people had concrete concerns.

Seventy five percent of new member states' citizens fear being cheated on prices during the changeover, while one in every two respondents expects a rise in inflation along with euro introduction.

Mr Almunia said enhanced information campaigns should confront fears about cheating and "misconceptions" about inflation.

Polish referendum

Commissioner Almunia also allowed himself a small departure from the commission’s doctrine of non-intervention in the internal affairs of member states, showing wariness about the prospect of a referendum on the euro in Poland.

"As a politician, not as a commissioner, I would not recommend to hold referenda in the coming time," the commissioner said.

Poland's newly elected president Lech Kaczynski announced recently that his country will "definitely" hold a referendum over the adoption of the euro sometime at the end of his five-year term, signalling that his government will not rush toward euro adoption.

But Mr Almunia reminded Polish politicians that it is an "obligation" for all member states to join the currency, adding that he had not yet had contact with Warsaw’s new government on the issue.


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