UK pupils may be taught to love ecus

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The Independent Online
in Brussels

The European Commission plans a mass education campaign in schools and on television in Britain and other EU countries to help win public support and understanding for a single European currency.

Among ideas under consideration is a review of teaching materials and school curricula to ensure that children learn about the ecu, the most likely name for the pan-European currency due to enter circulation in about seven years' time.

The ideas, to be set out in a forthcoming Green Paper, will be presented to heads of state and government at the Cannes summit next month. Opposition is expected from a number of countries and especially from Britain, which has yet to decide whether to merge sterling in the proposed European Monetary Union (Emu).

But Brussels hopes to see the launch of the public education programme - one of the largest ever conceived - by the end of the year. The message will be "Learning to love the single currency".

"People must be presented with the arguments," Yves Thibault de Silguy, the Commissioner responsible for Emu, told the Independent. "They must see that they have nothing to fear. The biggest problem is a psychological one - we must work out how to conquer the resistance of the consumer."

A special EU conference to discuss the single-currency education campaign is planned in the autumn.

Ideas being discussed by the commission include:

t Education programmes in schools, including a wide-ranging review of school curricula to take account of the single currency. Education ministers from member states would be asked to oversee the plans and launch discussions with the teaching profession.

t Television advertising campaigns in each member state.

tMeetings with consumer groups and banks to discuss the practical plans they must make in preparation for the switch.

Brussels believes it is hampered in its task of preparing for Emu by the reluctance of all governments to confront the practical realities, for political reasons. As a result, commission officials argue, people are confused and ignorant about the coming change.

For Britain, the Brussels education proposals will be particularly embarrassing. The Government is likely to resist any attempt to introduce education programmes in this country before it has decided whether to join Emu. That decision does not have to be taken until 1998, after the next general election. The launch date for Emu is set for 1999, and the introduction of notes and coins is due about three years later.

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