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Monday, November 03, 2008

Scandi euro fever?

In Saturday's Independent, Vanessa Mock was quite excited about the "euro fever" that apparently is sweeping through Scandinavia in the wake of the financial crisis. There are anxieties, we are told, that the small Scandinavian currencies are "dangerously over-exposed to market vagaries."

Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen is quoted saying that Denmark should be joining the eurozone "as soon as possible", complaining about high interest rates and Danes feeling left out. Swedish Europe Minister Cecilia Malmstrom echoes Rasmussen's remarks: "It makes no sense whatsoever for us to stay out and if we could hold a referendum tomorrow, we would."

These can no doubt serve as powerful political arguments against the backdrop of turbulent times, but euro fever? Hardly.

Rasmussen and Malmstrom are saying what they've always said. Certainly, the Danish government was talking about a eurozone referendum long before the financial crisis hit.

Meanwhile, the Swedish opinion poll that, according to the Independent, marks "a major turn-around in public opinion", shows that 47% of Swedes would vote against the euro, 42% in favour, and 11% are uncertain. In other words, of those who do know, 53% would vote No, compared to 56% in the 2003 referendum. This is a shift, but not "a major turn-around".

And, crucially, Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt has said that he has no plans of bringing up the issue in the near future. According to Svenska Dagbladet he said recently that "We have to remember that we asked the Swedish people - they heard the arguments for and against [euro membership] and voted No".

Having said all that, however, it's of course close to a universal truth that when it comes to EU-related referendums, politicans have a curious habit of going back on their word. And if Denmark calls a referendum, the pressure on Sweden will certainly grow. A number of factors - most of them having something to do with the Social Democrats - will determine both whether a referendum is called and the outcome.

Until then, let's not get overly excited.

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