Prodi urges 'yes' vote from Swedes despite euro slide

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Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission, played down the slide in the value of the euro yesterday, saying its exchange rate against the dollar was less important than the stature it had attained as a currency.

Seeking to rally the faltering campaign for membership of the euro in Sweden, Mr Prodi said Swedes would benefit if they voted on 14 September to adopt the currency.

Despite opinion polls showing a clear majority of Swedes against membership, Mr Prodi said: "The referendum is still open ... We [would] like to have Sweden as a new member of the euro."

Sweden's decision is seen as an important test of the single currency's public popularity, and the vote will be watched closely in London. A Swedish "no" would deliver another blow to supporters of British membership, who have almost given up hope of a referendum before the next general election.

The recent drop in the value of the euro - it has lost 9 per cent against the dollar since June - has brought reminders of Denmark's rejection of the currency in its referendum in 2000. That took place against a backdrop of a euro slump on the foreign exchange markets.

This time, the slide has been more gentle. Mr Prodi said the Swedes would benefit from the stability of joining the 12-nation bloc. "This currency now is behaving like a normal currency. It is becoming day by day more and more important," he said. "I don't care if [it is at] $1.09 or $1.18 or $1.00 even. What is important is that all financial dealers find the euro tête-à-tête with the dollar."

Companies that export from the eurozone, which have suffered from the currency's strength, have welcomed the drop in value. Earlier this year the euro rose to record highs against other main currencies before falling to four-month lows against the dollar and five-month lows against the yen.

Opinion polls underline the scale of the task facing the "yes" campaign in Sweden. A poll by Danske Bank in Copenhagen found 53 per cent of Swedes would vote against the euro in the referendum, with 43 per cent in favour.

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