Persson tveksam till ja seger

Pressmeddelande   •   Aug 29, 2003 11:43 CEST

I en artikel i Daily Telegraph erkänner för första gången Göran Persson att det kan vara försent att få till stånd ett ja i folkomröstningen 14 september.

Euro enthusiasts expect defeat in sceptical Sweden
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in Falun
(Filed: 29/08/2003)

Braced for defeat in Sweden's euro referendum next month, Goran Persson, the prime minister, has confessed for the first time that it may be too late to overcome entrenched scepticism.

As he campaigned in the icy mining belt of upper Sweden, where snow is already falling, he told The Telegraph it would be an uphill struggle to close the 10 to 12-point gap in the polls over the next two weeks.

"We remember the last week of the referendum on EU membership in 1994 when 32 per cent of the electorate were undecided, and a five per cent margin ended up voting in favour.

"Whether it's enough this time, I'm not sure," he said candidly, as if he was already looking beyond a debacle on Sept 14 to restore the shattered unity of his Social Democratic Party.

In Falun, it is hard to find anybody with a good word for the euro, even though the town of 55,000 was built on an epochal currency change in the early 17th century, when the Spanish began to adulterate their silver coinage with copper and most of Europe followed.

For two centuries Falun's copper mountain, the Kopparberget, was the biggest mining complex in the world, with 6,000 miners and woodcutters, financing the adventures of Gustavus Adolphus as Sweden briefly swept into Europe as an imperial power.

"I think there will be a massive No to the euro in Falun," said Sven Olsson, the director of the Copper Museum. "We already feel that we have very little influence over Stockholm, so Brussels takes power even further away from us."

The strongholds of pro-euro sympathy lie hundreds of miles south, in the big cities of Gothenberg, Malmo and Stockholm.

Karin Rosencrantz, the letters editor of the local Falu Kurieren newspaper, said she had been swamped with anti-euro correspondence from readers venting their anger against the European Union and Sweden's elite.

Indeed, the favourite No poster plastered over town squares is an eerie silhouette of Wim Duisenberg, the European Central Bank president, and his inner team, waiting like vampires to drain Sweden's lifeblood.

Two years ago, before Swedish travellers returned from holidays in Greece and Spain with tales of euro price gouging, the Yes camp had a lead of 20 per cent. Mr Persson put too much stock in those fleeting polls. It has been downhill ever since.

Five of his cabinet ministers are in the No camp, including the deputy prime minister and the industry minister, Leif Pagrotsky, credited with Sweden's economic renaissance.

The Left-wing base of Mr Persson's party is implacably hostile, seeing economic and monetary union as a capitalist ruse to push through tax cuts and dismantle Sweden's welfare system - among the most generous in the world. As a result, the Social Democrats have been unable to mobilise their party machinery.

Analysts say there is little chance that floating voters will break to the Yes side this time. When Swedes voted narrowly in 1994 to join the EU they were still traumatised by the economic crisis of the early 1990s, which saw interest rates reach 500 per cent and almost shut down the
banking system. With self-confidence at its nadir, the EU offered a safe haven.

Mr Persson is now the victim of his own economic success. Unemployment is just over four per cent, half the euro zone average. The economy is growing while core Europe slides deeper into recession.

"There is this talk that we are better off than the others, that Sweden, Denmark and the UK are the successes of the EU, but that's because Germany and Italy drag the average down.

"The truth is that we have continued to devalue in the last years, which is not good for a currency. We're not so much floating as sinking," he said.

A No in Sweden would chill any thoughts of a referendum in Denmark or Britain, cementing a permanent bloc outside EMU and signalling a vote of no confidence in the management of the euro zone.

It could have a contagious effect on Poland and other East European states joining the EU next year.

Legally, Sweden is "living in sin". Lacking the "opt-outs" negotiated by Britain and Denmark at Maastricht, it is obliged to swallow the EU's entire "acquis", or rule book, including the euro. In practice, Mr Persson insists that Sweden can do what it wants.

"We have a 'political' opt-out. They don't want to have members in EMU who don't want to participate. They're not going to force anybody into the club."


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