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Business

Euro Wonderland

The Euro, maybe the most ambitious monetary project ever, is about to join the orbit of international currencies. But three of the EU’s member states still reckon the project is like trying to square a circle.

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Paying with Euro will soon be reality

At midnight on December 31, 300 million Europeans swap national notes and coins for a new currency. Frankfurt, the home of the European Central Bank, plans to welcome the arrival of euro-cash in style. The "Night of the Euro" promises to be a night to remember.

But not all Europeans are that enthusiastic. Three countries, the UK, Sweden and Denmark, are not even taking part.

The United Kingdom

"Wait and see" seems to be Britain’s approach to the impending dawn of the new currency. The long-awaited referendum on joining the Euro will not be held soon, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown made clear just after New Labour’s re-election in June.

Opinion polls regularly show the public’s resistance to joining the single currency and although parts of the UK’s industry complain about the high value of the Pound, they come out in force against abandoning the Queen’s tender.

There is huge opposition to the project in parts of the conservative press. Media moguls Rupert Murdoch ("the Sun", "the Times") and Conrad Black ("the Telegraph", "Daily Mail") are the main opponents, feeding their readers a daily diet of anti-EU and anti-Euro sentiment. In numbers, they account for well over half of the country’s daily newspaper readers.

Sweden

The Euro-sceptic Swedes are split down the middle when it comes to the single currency. A resolution to the long running feud between the two groups was hoped for at the EU summit in Gothenburg this summer. Instead of agreement, the worst riots in the EU’s summit history resulted. A referendum on joining the Euro could still be a long way off.

In part, Sweden’s anti-Euro stance is down to Persson’s success in handling the economy. He has managed to reduce unemployment to under four percent, as promised. He managed to reduce the budget deficit as well.

Denmark

The Danes are as staunch as they come when it comes to Euro-scepticism. A convincing 53 percent of Danes said "no" to the referendum on joining the single currency in September last year.

Although Denmark takes over the revolving EU-Presidency at the beginning of next year, Danes are not terribly excited at the prospect of running things at the heart of Europe.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the newly-elected prime minister, favours European integration. But his Liberal Party's defeat of the Social Democrats also showed voters' commitment to Danish national identity and interests. He may have difficulty steering a pro-European course nationalist enough to satisfy his newly confident populist constituents.

Germany

In Germany, the introduction of the Euro is viewed with a high degree of scepticism. Most Germans see the Euro’s drop in value against the Dollar with disdain and are worried about its buying power relative to the Deutschmark.

Yet the German economy is well prepared for the introduction of the new currency. Businesses, banks and the government have long been gearing up for the event. The European Central Bank in Frankfurt plans to welcome the new cash in style.

The city on Friday announced plans for the December 31 "Night of the Euro" which will feature the unveiling of a 15-metre Euro sculpture, a light show and the premiere of a Euro pop song.

Although the Central Bank’s president, Wim Duisenberg, will not be attending the event, he will wake up the next morning having gained a great deal of financial clout.

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