Drive to sell the 'Euro' begins
Madrid summit: After 'historic' moment, the hard part now is to win over a sceptical public
Monday 18 December 1995
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.
Liam Neeson's Downton dreams
Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage
Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour
Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason
Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama
- 2 Scottish independence: Five reasons Salmond is secretly hoping for a 'No' vote
- 3 Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
- 4 Scottish independence: Andy Murray backs Yes campaign in eleventh hour decision
- 5 Have you heard about the film Singapore has banned its people from watching? Well, you have now
Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
Scottish independence referendum live: Latest news as Scotland decides Yes or No
Scottish independence: Final opinion polls show undecided voters could swing result either way
Scottish independence: Almost half of No voters have felt 'personally threatened' by the Yes campaign
Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...
£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...
£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...