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Swedes Vote Down Changing Currency to Euro

September 15, 2003|From Times Wire Services

STOCKHOLM — Swedes rejected adopting the euro as their currency in a Sunday referendum, defying expectations of a surge in "yes" votes after last week's slaying of pro-euro Foreign Minister Anna Lindh.

About 56% of voters said no to the euro, a stinging defeat for Prime Minister Goran Persson and euro supporters in the main political parties and big business.

"In the long term, we will have worse opportunities than we would otherwise have had," Persson said after the referendum, which had an 81% turnout.

European Commission chief Romano Prodi echoed such concerns, telling Swedish television the country would "certainly" lose some clout in the European Union by rejecting the world's second most-traded currency.

The chairman of Sweden's flagship telecommunications giant Ericsson, Michael Treschow, said the "big losers will be companies." But bond fund manager Tor Marthin said the consequences would "not be dramatic for the Swedish economy."

The Nordic country of 9 million has a lower jobless rate and higher growth than the 12-nation euro zone. And unlike euro members Germany and France, which are struggling with large budget deficits, Sweden has a budget surplus.

Finnish officials said Sweden's "no" was a warning to the euro zone nations to get their fiscal houses in order, especially France and Germany.

Though the vote was a blow to European integration, it provided a boost for euro opponents in Britain and Denmark, which still use their own currencies.

The results countered some analysts' predictions that the stabbing death of Lindh would sway voters to give up the Swedish krona.

Lindh was stabbed Wednesday by an unknown assailant as she shopped in a Stockholm department store. She died early Thursday after surgery. Police released pictures of a suspect Sunday but have made no arrests.

Graham Watson, the leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, said the vote not only portended a likely loss of prestige for Sweden but offered a warning to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Britain's Foreign Office said it respected the Swedish people's decision, adding that it would not affect Britain's choice.

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