Most Germans 'oppose EMU'

In another blow to the European Union's plans to create a single currency, an opinion poll published yesterday suggested four out of five Germans oppose monetary union or want to delay it beyond the 1999 deadline imposed by the Maastricht treaty.

According to the Forsa institute's survey, published in the Hamburg weekly Die Woche, 43 per cent of Germans do not want a single currency, 41 per cent want to postpone the launch date beyond January 1999, and only 10 per cent want to stick to the Maastricht schedule.

It was one of the highest levels of scepticism about monetary union ever recorded in Germany, and indicated that the government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl will have an uphill task in persuading public opinion to embrace the Euro, as the single currency was christened last December.

Many Germans suspect the Euro may be weaker than the mark. They are not convinced by Mr Kohl's argument that monetary union will be good for business and jobs.

The poll was published as France's labour ministry announced unemployment had risen in December to 11.7 per cent from 11.5 per cent in October, the last recorded month. More than 3 million French are without work. Among people under 25 the unemployment rate has risen to 23.2 per cent.

French critics of the Maastricht timetable are likely to seize on the figures as proof that it is more important to create new jobs than stick to the treaty's terms. Supporters of the Euro say France's high unemployment is caused by structural problems in the economy.

Responding to concern over the implications of monetary union for jobs, the European Commission President, Jacques Santer, appealed yesterday to governments, businessmen and trade unions to join a "pact of confidence" to promote jobs and competitiveness.

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