Drive to sell the 'Euro' begins

Madrid summit: After 'historic' moment, the hard part now is to win over a sceptical public

The new political will at the summit here to secure a single currency, symbolised by the naming of the Euro, appears to have increased chances that monetary union will happen in January 1999. But, given the rhetoric about the "historic" moment, there was little sense of euphoria; rather, the conference was marked by an underlying sense of unease.

Doubts persisted about whether France and several smaller countries will make the grade to join EMU and John Major's warnings about dividing Europe jarred with the otherwise harmonious tones of other leaders. But the unease was prompted perhaps more strongly by fears about the task of selling EMU to the public.

As Chancellor Helmut Kohl acknowledged yesterday, winning support is about more than a sales-pitch for the single currency: it is a sales-pitch for the whole process of European integration: "We have got to do everything to convince the people of Europe of the absolute necessity of the European Union in all areas."

The practical decisions taken at Madrid show political and technical EMU planning has come a long way this year. The timetable for the changeover was agreed: early in 1998 the political decision will be taken on which countries qualify to join EMU, which will start on 1 January 1999, with the locking of exchange rates. Notes and coins will start to circulate in 2002.

For Bonn and Paris, the alliance which drives the EU, Madrid was a good meeting. Mr Kohl had cause to celebrate that the deal had been struck so far largely on Germany's terms. President Jacques Chirac appeared unshaken by the unrest which has followed his budget cuts, necessitated by economic convergence for EMU.

The summit was also something of a watershed for Britain. Despite Mr Major's warnings, there was a new tone of British realism, giving cause to believe that even he recognises Britain may be there too at the starting- line in 1999.

For the first time, Mr Major ruled out using the Conservative manifesto to oppose EMU membership in 1999. Even his more strident warnings suggested he knows the coming of EMU is now a reality.

Mr Chirac appeared to have sensed the new British realism, as he put it. Brushing off Mr Major's warnings about a division between those inside EMU and those left outside, as if they were designed only for a Westminster audience, Mr Chirac said: "I have great confidence that Britain will participate in monetary union in 1999."

But there was little doubt the EMU-enthusiasts in Madrid have been shaken by the French strikes. Mr Chirac's denials that there is a connection between his budget-cutting and the Maastricht convergence criteria sounded hollow and will mean little to the French public, whose protests have been marked by an anti-European tone. Belgium has seen similar protests and German concern about sinking the Mark into a weak single currency has also brought to the fore a strain of Euro-scepticism.

It is against this background that European leaders will try to gain credibility on the streets for EMU by preparing the public, commerce, industry and banks. The European Commission is gearing up for an education campaign in schools and on television to win public support for the single currency.

Yesterday Mr Major sneered at the Commission plans, but the Government would clearly be embarrassed if single-currency campaigns appeared on British television and billboards in the run-up to the next election and before Britain had decided to join. Germany is to launch its education campaign in spring and other countries will do likewise.

The task is immense. People are asking if sacrifices required to ensure EMU will come about are worthwhile. Government heads hope practical measures, particularly naming the currency, will help convince people they must enthusiastically seize this turning-point. However, so bland was the name chosen, that after Madrid, Europeans might feel even less inspired by the currency revolution.

No European leader spoke of the Euro with joy. As they knew, the more concrete EMU plans become, the more real the prospect of the change, the higher the risk of fear and doubt among ordinary people.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own