September 22, 2003
SWEDISH 'NO' VOTE ON EURO IS 'A SHOT ACROSS THE
** Sweden's healthy
economy, distrust of political elites led to rejection of euro; holding
referendum even after the murder of foreign minister was "a victory for
** A euro vote in Britain
and Denmark is "not winnable now for many years."
** The "no" vote
"will have repercussions" on the future of European integration.
Euro vote was 'a unique departure from Swedish tradition'-- Noting that Swedes "have traditionally
been far more inclined" to vote as their leaders ask than some other
nationalities, European dailies called the negative outcome of the referendum
to replace the Swedish kroner with the euro "a break with
tradition." Writers cited the
electorate's fears of being overwhelmed within "the EU colossus" as
well as "popular distrust" of elites.
"The gap between governing and governed has increased," held
Sweden's conservative Svenska Dagbladet.
The vote also "had a lot to do" with Swedish pocketbooks. Swedes were being asked to "give up the
status quo...a difficult proposition to sell in a county which has a healthy
economy." Remarking that the
referendum took place against the "tragic background" of the murder
of pro-euro Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, many analysts called the vote "a
tribute to Swedish democracy."
'Rejection will ease pressure' on UK, Denmark to join euro-zone-- Editorialists in Britain and Denmark asserted
that Sweden's vote "has important implications" for the future of the
single currency in both countries. A
Danish paper lamented the vote's "bad result." The conservative UK press trumpeted the
"harsh lesson" for Tony Blair, perceived to be shepherding his
country towards adopting the euro. The
Swedish vote belied the "inexorability" of the euro's march, declared
the Daily Telegraph. The vote
showed that the single currency "has not yet won the battle for its
credibility," said Italy's centrist, influential Corriere della Sera. Many writers judged that the Swedes were also
reacting negatively to the fact that France and Germany have been breaking the
deficit limits of the Stability and Growth Pact "and getting away with
Vote was also 'a setback for the EU'-- Though the Swedish "no" on the euro
stood in "glaring contrast to the unreserved EU enthusiasm" shown by
the "yes" vote of Estonians in their referendum on joining the
European Union, a number of analysts contended the vote "indicates further
difficulties for European integration."
The euro, argued Germany's centrist Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, is
not only a currency "but the most important integration staple" for
an increasingly close Union. A
right-of-center German paper called the vote's result "psychological poison
for the controversial European Constitution," which will also have to be
approved in some countries by referendum.
"Sweden has opted to turn in on itself" and increased the risk
of a Europe "divided in two" between those countries favoring a rapid
move forward towards further integration and skeptics "intending to remain
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: This
analysis is based on 36 reports from 13 countries, September 6-17, 2003. Editorial excerpts from each country are
listed from the most recent date.
"Congratulations To The Left On A Resounding Victory"
Conservative Stockholm daily Svenska
Dagbladet editorialized (Internet version) (9/16): "A number of different factors lie
behind the overwhelming no-victory....
There were more deep-rooted reasons for the people's vote, which must be
respected.... Sweden is a divided
nation. We have not reached agreement on
a national consensus along Finnish lines, or on a vision of a supranational
Europe.... The north is lined up against
the south, everyone lines up against Stockholm, men against women.... There is a popular distrust of the
elites. Not in respect of the liberal
vision of equal rights and opportunities, but more in respect of the socialist
variant.... This hits business leaders
and politicians, particularly those who preach equality but who themselves take
home million-krona salaries....
"Generations of Swedes have been told that
Sweden's outsider status is part of the tradition that has kept them out of
conflicts.... For a long time the Social
Democratic leadership was in favor of special-status solutions in foreign
policy. Suddenly this line was to be
abandoned.... There has been the
long-lived myth that the 'Swedish' model has given us the greatest prosperity,
the best public services, and the lowest rates of unemployment. Now everything was to be gambled.... Many left-wing voters have felt that Sweden
was hoodwinked into joining the EU and wanted now to make a stand. They have not subsequently been told by the
Social Democratic leadership what membership has meant. It was these popular perceptions that
benefited the no-side. In addition, this
time there have also been new arguments put forward which have also attracted
the right wing's nay-sayers.... The
Social Democratic leadership has been challenged, the sins of omission must now
be paid for. Now the next phase is
starting, an EU constitutional debate. A
no in a referendum on the treaty would take Sweden out of the EU. That would return us to normality, a position
on the outside."
"Election Outcome A Break From Swedish
Anders Jonsson commented in conservative Stockholm
daily Svenska Dagbladet (Internet version) (9/15): "It was a real slap at the establishment
in general and the Social Democratic leadership, personified by Prime Minister
Goran Persson.... Despite massive
support from most authorities among politicians, economists, and CEOs, an
overwhelming majority voted no. Or
perhaps precisely because of that. The
outcome of the election was a unique departure from Swedish tradition. In earlier national referenda....the sitting
government got what it wanted. But not
this time.... With such a strong
advantage for a no vote on the euro, it will be many years before the issue
comes up again. If so, then public
opinion would have to have swung permanently and Denmark and Great Britain
would have had to join.... The gap between governing and governed has
increased..... Significantly more of
those who voted yes had great trust in politicians than did those who voted
Europe Will Not Wait For Sweden"
Conservative Stockholm daily Svenska
Dagbladet remarked (Internet version) (9/15): "The anti-euro side can be
congratulated--Sweden chose a different route than Estonia and the new EU
countries, away from Europe.... Despite general support for democracy, it is a
politically divided nation and split parties that will have to deal with the
consequences of non-membership for many years to come. The effects will be limited to begin
with.... European integration will roll
on, with Sweden less involved than it would have been in the event of a
pro-euro victory. Another referendum
should be held as soon as possible....
We saw the third stage of economic and monetary union as a logical
consequence of the first two steps, and as a natural part of European
integration.... The European debate in
Sweden was postponed year after year with reference to an upcoming
referendum. In this way, the
politicians' major task of leading Sweden into Europe and Europe into Sweden
was obscured by narrower issues, such as the referendum campaign's fixation on
the Bank of Sweden.... Europe will not
wait for Sweden. The project of
integration will now move on, the next topic of discussion being the proposal
for the EU constitution"
"Serious Setback For The Power Elite"
Independent, liberal Stockholm daily Dagens
Nyheter judged (Internet version) (9/14):
"The 'no' vote]...is a serious setback for the political and
economic elite in Sweden. But it is
these losers who will now continue to lead the country.... The winners are a disparate collection
from right to left. But, above all, the
interpretation of the no victory must be that the voters are putting their foot
down on the plans for Sweden to participate in a continued intensification of
EU cooperation. The yes-parties have not
succeeded in breaking through the EU skepticism which has existed ever since
Sweden joined the European Union. And
along with mistrust of politicians and concern over the consequences of handing
over the national right of decision on monetary policy, voters from all
political groups came together. This
means that Sweden's relationship with the European Union will be
unresolved.... During the referendum
campaign Goran Persson saw to it primarily that he would keep the government
and the Social Democratic Party and he did not gamble his position as prime
minister. But the no victory still
weakens his political authority, and does so in parallel with the murder of the
country's experienced foreign minister.
This causes Sweden's position in EU cooperation to be weakened, and the
government is likely to act very cautiously in the upcoming negotiations over a
new EU constitution. But, above all, on
the euro issue the government and the most splintered parties will now be
forced to devote most of their efforts to internal consolidation instead of
forward-looking political discussion.
The political leadership must also contemplate how to establish a
genuine debate about the European cooperation, in which the voters and
politicians end up on the same wavelength."
BRITAIN: "If You Ask,
We Say 'No'"
The conservative Daily Telegraph
commented (9/16): "This was not the
battle that euro-zealots like to portray, between open-minded internationalists
and old Blimps. If anything, the sheer
greyness of the pro-euro campaign convinced many that 'No' was a more dashing,
more idealistic choice. The reason this
matters is that European integration depends, more than is often realised, on a
sense of inexorability. The feeling that
the euro (or the constitution, or whatever) will happen anyway is a substitute
for winning the arguments.... Once
something is thought to be inevitable, its opponents can easily be
portrayed--indeed, may come to see themselves--as losers. That is why the Swedish vote matters.... Britain shows the same demographic breakdown
as Sweden and other countries: those who are keenest on scrapping the pound are
middle-class men in their fifties....
The EU could never have come as far as it has, had it regularly asked
for people's opinions.... This week,
[Blair's] government repeated that there would be no referendum on the
Euro-constitution--a far larger matter than the single currency.... There must come a time when the people are
allowed their say. That time, surely, is
The conservative Daily Telegraph
editorialized (9/15): "Deep down,
even the most fanatical supporters of the euro must now recognize that it isn't
going to happen.... The 'yes' side was
calculated to have spent more than the George Bush election campaign.... Politely, but firmly, [Sweden's voters]
rejected their leaders' advice and voted to keep the krona.... The British, Swedish and Danish opt-outs now
look permanent. The question is no
longer, 'Will Britain join the euro?', or even, 'Should Britain join the
euro?', but 'Given that Britain is not joining the euro, what kind of
relationship should we forge with out neighbors?' All three parties need to do some muscular
thinking about this for, at present, our foreign policy is built on a falsehood. Central to Britain's diplomacy is the notion
that, by 'leading in Europe', we can make the EU more receptive to our
needs.... It is clear that the British
people have no desire to 'lead in Europe' if that means surrendering their
currency and diminishing their independence."
"Swedish Euro Vote Has Harsh Lessons For A
The center-left Independent commented
(9/15): "The Swedes were never
given much of a reason for voting to adopt the euro and, so long as the issue
remained one of the élite against the ordinary people, the Yes cause seemed
unlikely to prevail. The patronizing
assumption that people might change their minds because of the appalling murder
of an attractive politician rather than because of the arguments has been
confounded. The Swedish vote undoubtedly
has important implications for Britain, however much the more idealistic euro
supporters might try to brush it off....
It will not make much difference to most Britons that they are less
alone in the European Union than they otherwise would be in holding on to their
own currency. It is more a lesson in the
dynamics of a referendum. It suggests
that Tony Blair's fond belief that the terms of the debate would be transformed
the moment he himself declared for adopting the euro is a little
optimistic.... In Sweden, the voters
were being asked to give up the status quo for something different. That is a difficult proposition to sell to
country which has a healthy economy, a sea between it and the rest of the
continent and pride in its national political institutions. It suggests that political leaders who are
committed to their nation playing a central role in Europe need to be more
aggressive over a longer period in making the argument about how full
membership of the single European market is in our long term interests,
economic and otherwise.... A euro
referendum in Britain does not look winnable for many years to come."
"Rejection Will Ease Pressure On Britain
And Denmark To Join Eurozone"
judged in the center-left Independent (9/15): "Sweden's voters have struck a profound
blow to Europe's single currency, giving a vote of no confidence in the euro
and making early Danish and UK membership unlikely. The result underlines the difficulty
pro-Europeans face in winning any popular vote against opponents who portray
their cause as elitist and remote from the voters. Not even the sympathy factor after the murder
of the country's Foreign Minister and pro-euro campaigner Anna Lindh could
swing the result.... The eurozone needs
economies like the Swedes' to bolster its credibility. The 12-nation bloc is facing stagnation and
mounting budget deficits while Sweden is a model of Scandinavian
"Admitting the Swedish kroner would have
restored some faith in the euro when its rulebook, the so-called Stability and
Growth Pact, is in disarray. But, with
Swedish membership killed off for some years, the result will have a domino
effect. Denmark's government has made
clear it would like a second referendum....
That prospect is now significantly further off. In turn, Britain will face less pressure to
join since it will, for some years at least, have the company of two
Scandinavian nations in the EU's outer economic tier. Next to join the bloc may a few of the former
Communist nations due to join the EU next year, but the addition of currencies
such as the Polish zloty may not be so welcome to foreign exchange markets as
the kroner. Yesterday's vote showed how
difficult it is to win a referendum for European integration. Recently the pro-European side has had a
"A Swedish Lesson, Tony"
The tabloid Daily Mirror remarked
(9/15): "The Swedes have chosen
their destiny. They have voted to live
on the fringes of Europe. When they
realize what they have done, they won't be able to say they didn't have a
choice. Their economy will not collapse
overnight but sooner rather than later they will realize the mistake they have
made in not joining the huge and powerful new euro zone. In Britain there will be jubilation among the
anti-Europeans who are determined for us to cling to the pound at whatever cost
to the people in lost jobs, lower incomes and worse services. For Tony Blair, the Swedish vote should be an
electrifying wake-up call.... He has
allowed his powerful case [for the euro] to drift, giving the field to the
anti-Europeans. He thought that when the
time came for us to hold our euro referendum, he could swing the argument in
favour of a Yes vote. That was always
going to be an uphill struggle. The
Swedes have shown just how tough it will be.
They have consigned themselves to their own second-class fate. It would be a disaster if Blair has done the
same to us."
"After Swedish Vote, Blair Should Ditch
The conservative Scotsman of Edinburgh
judged (9/15): "The understandable
political crisis that followed the murder of the Swedish foreign minister, Anna
Lindh, made some commentators think that the tragedy might lead voters to
reconsider their opposition to membership of the euro currency zone. But, in practice, the outcome of yesterday’s
referendum was decided long ago. Sweden
joins Denmark in staying out of the euro zone for a mixture of political and
economic reasons.... The vote had a lot
to do with Swedish pockets. Sweden’s
unemployment is lower and its economic growth higher than the 12-nation euro
zone's average--just like the UK. Why
mend something that isn’t broke?...
"There has now been sufficient experience
of the euro to appreciate its problems.
An early failure by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt to lower the
one-size-fits-all interest rate helped tip the eurozone economy into
recession.... France and Germany have
deliberately flouted the rules on public borrowing...as a result of rising
unemployment. This is making the
financial markets very jittery about the currency. After all, if the French government can
effectively print as many euros as it needs to buy its way out of trouble, what
value is there in holding euros?... The
average Swede may not have an economics degree but they can see when their
economy is working and when the euro zone is not. The Swedish 'no' is a vote of no confidence
in the euro which Brussels and Frankfurt will have to take to heart.... Equally, the average British voter can count.... If the dour Swedes are not convinced, why
should we be?... There may be arguments
for and against long-term euro membership, but few tenable short- or
medium-term ones. Perhaps when Mr. Blair
is free of other distractions, he will recognize that and kick his own euro
referendum into touch."
The tabloid Sun contended (9/15): "In the end, the Swedes used their heads
not their hearts. The vote against
joining the single currency is right for their country. No amount of sympathy for murdered foreign
minister Anna Lindh can alter that. The
Swedish economy is doing well outside the eurozone. That will continue. Sweden will flourish as countries like
Germany and France struggle. Tony Blair
should reflect long and hard on the common sense of the Swedish voters. If he were daft enough to put joining the
euro to the vote here, the No would be overwhelming. Like Britain, Sweden has no need to jump into
the economic basketcase on its doorstep."
"A Swedish 'No'"
The conservative Times took this view
(9/15): "Imagine how
unrepresentative a referendum on the monarchy held days after the death of
Diana, Princess of Wales, would have been.
The result of the Swedish referendum on the euro...must be judged in a
similar light. After Anna Lindh, the
foreign minister, the popular face of the 'yes' campaign, was fatally stabbed
in a department store, the Swedish referendum became less of a battle between
the arguments over the single currency and, in part, a memorial to a much-loved
woman. This inevitably swung some voters
towards the 'yes' camp.... [The]
population...knew Swedish unemployment was less than half that of the eurozone
and that its economy was the second fastest-growing in Europe.... The left-wing arguments against joining the
euro were formidably deployed.... The
protection of sovereignty may traditionally be seen as the preserve of the
Right, but voters who believe in the power of the State to intervene in society
are equally loath to see that power usurped by Brussels. This lesson is particularly pertinent to Tony
Blair's ambitions to take Britain into the euro.... If Sweden, even after the death of Ms. Lindh,
was not prepared to vote for euro entry, it is almost inconceivable that
Britain could be persuaded to do so."
"Europe Off To A Bad Start"
Jacques Amalric observed in left-of-center Liberation
(Internet version) (9/11): "The
off-handedness with which Paris intends to abandon the constraints of the
Stability Pact seems equally disastrous in the East European capitals (and even
in Sweden, where it is exploited by the opponents of the euro....). The fact that France is calmly preparing to
violate its budget commitments in 2004, for the third year in a row, is considered
in Eastern Europe to be the proof of a system with a double standard.... In thus setting a bad example while regularly
citing the necessity of an economic government for the euro zone, Paris has
lost a great deal of the influence it had regained at the start of the
summer.... The idea once again prevails
that for France, the European rules are above all good for the others, and that
the European Commission remains an excellent scapegoat...in domestic
Left-of-center Le Monde observed
(Internet version) (9/6): "Rarely
will a French prime minister have made remarks so surprising on France and
contemptuous of Europe. Interviewed...4
September on TF1, Jean-Pierre Raffarin declared that the European Stability
Pact was 'important' but that 'his first duty (was) to see to it that there is
work' for the French.... As if one could
pit the European choices of France against the creation of jobs in a country
which conducts more than half of its foreign trade with its EU partners! Mr. Raffarin underestimates, to say the least,
the economic savvy of the French at this beginning of the twenty-first
century. They do not pit Europe against
employment.... The prime minister
addressed the public deficit in 2003--4 percent.... These numbers place France in violation of
the 3 percent budget deficit...authorized in the euro zone.... Must one remind Mr. Raffarin that this 3
percent, judged necessary for the stability of the euro, was one of the
requirements of France at the negotiations for the launching of the common
currency?...that these engagements on the part of France are not made for 'this
or that office' but for the other European partners?...that they bind France,
and that it's the word of the country he governs which he harms.... Our partners in the EU who force themselves
to make budgetary efforts will appreciate it."
Jasper von Altenbeckum penned the following
front-page editorial for center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine
(9/16): "The outcome of the euro
referendum shows how far the North--with the exception of Finland--is still
away from Europe.... Prime Minister
Persson's explanation that the Swedes, as the guardian of the holy Stability
Pact grail, have voted against an unsafe currency is flimsy. With their 'no,' the Swedes only confirmed
what was also the reason for their euro-skeptical government policy in
1997: Sweden wants to be a member of the
EU, but the majority of Swedes has never arrived there.... With respect to the euro, one thing is also
true for Sweden: It is an illusion to
think that the Swedish crown will remain 'independent.' It is dependent on the decisions of the
European Central Bank without it being influenced by a Swedish vote.... The Swedish decision has nothing to do with a
European conscience, but with the conscience of being something peculiar in
Europe. The isolationist welfare state
of Nordic characteristics still plays the decisive role.... For Europe, the 'no' of the Swedes is no more
than a tiny step in the wrong direction.
For the North it is an enormous step backward. Scandinavia and the Baltic states would play
a much more important role in the EU if they were serious about a 'northern
dimension.'... But this dimension will
not exist as long as Sweden as the core country in the North does not know to
where it belongs."
Gerhard Fischer concluded in an editorial in center-left Sueddeutsche
Zeitung of Munich (9/16):
"Prime Minister Persson made a few mistakes last year. After the 2002 elections he appointed five
ministers who were known for their rejection of the euro. This may be an act of tolerance or an
expression of a variety of opinions, but it was politically unwise. During the euro campaign, the government did
not show a uniform picture. It did not
offer orientation but confusion.... In
the future, Sweden will be faced with more difficulties. The exports to the eurozone will cross
Europe. Swedish companies, which will have to calculate in their own currency,
now need genius, patience, and luck in order to make a profit."
"Currency Stability A Must"
Center-right Stuttgarter Nachrichten opined (9/16): "When will the governments in Paris and
Berlin finally understand that the people can be convinced on a permanent basis
of the use of the young currency only if stability remains the priority of
currency policy? First Denmark, now
Sweden--and maybe Great Britain in the near future? The anti-euro mood on the British isles is so
bad that Tony Blair will not dare organize a referendum, at least not during
this legislative term. The 'no' from
Stockholm is not an irreparable setback, but it is a serious warning. Especially when Europe is involved, a wise
policy must patiently try to convince the people--instead of imposing its will
on them in a high-handed manner."
"No Reason To Panic"
Left-of-center Nuernberger Nachrichten had this to say
(9/16): "The naysayers are
realistically wondering why they should exchange the reform successes for a bad
situation in the euro-zone? Why should
they take part in unproductive debt that the EU core states such as France and
Germany are accumulating? The lax
adherence to the stability criteria only intensified the general distrust. This no reason to panic--Euroland will
continue to exist. But it is a shot
across the EU's bow which also reveals some weakness in the persuasive
work. And it is now also likely that
Britain and Denmark will postpone their referenda [on the euro] even
"An Emotional Vote"
Centrist Mitteldeutsche Zeitung of Halle remarked
(9/16): "More than 56 percent of
Swedes rejected the introduction of the euro, but they did so not so much
because they are afraid of the euro but because they feared the oppressive
influence of the EU 'colossus.' This
concern creates emotions and pushes aside cool rationale. For instance, the insight that the euro has
by far a greater significance for Sweden, which is dependent on exports to the
EU, than the Swedish crown that the Swedes have now defended so brazenly. But because such facts never reach the
Swedes' emotions, the outcome of the Swedish vote will have a direct effect on
the policy of other member states. Since
the euro is not supposed to be only a currency but the most important
integration 'staple' of a Europe that is growing together."
"An Embarrassing Defeat"
Right-of-center Frankfurter Neue Presse editorialized
(9/16): "The Swedish 'no' its not
only an embarrassing defeat for the political and economic elite of the
country. It also indicates further
difficulties for European integration.
The swift accession of economically strong states like Sweden or Great
Britain would be important in order to be better prepared for the upcoming
long-term integration of the Eastern European accession candidates. In addition, the rejection from the North is
a psychological poison for the controversial European Constitution, which must
be approved by referenda in some countries."
"Sweden Opens The Indecipherable Crisis In Euroland"
Arturo Gismondi commented in pro-government,
leading center-right daily Il Giornale (9/17): "Sweden's 'no' to the euro was sharper
than anticipated.... Brussels is now
preoccupied. The 'no' from Stockholm
comes a year after the 'no' from Denmark, which will return to the polls, but
without too many illusions.... The
reasons for the Swedish 'no' exacerbate the doubts circulating in many capitals
and weigh more--in view of the symptoms of economic recovery in the U.S. and in
Far East countries--as it becomes evident that Europe, for the restrictions
imposed on its economy is presenting the most difficulties. The story is only just beginning. A doubt has arisen that something in Euroland
must be revised; some rigidity may have to be loosened, if we don’t want to
hinder the integration to which the great hope of our continent has been tied
to since the latter half of the last century."
"Message To Brussels"
Sergio Romano, former ambassador, remarked in
centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (9/15): "The victory of the 'no' vote in the
Swedish referendum is important for all Europeans and will have repercussions
on the future of the Union.... The
Swedish 'no' demonstrates that the unified currency has not yet won the battle
for its credibility.... But the Swedish
vote also presents a certain advantage.
It weakens the risk of a Union in which there must co-exist two spirits:
the supranational one of its founders and the federalism of many of the
countries who entered the club after the success of the Treaty of Rome and the
end of the Cold War.... We are saddened
by the result from Stockholm, but it encourages us to think from now on to the
day in which the more like-minded countries decide to go forward more rapidly
than the others. This is the solution of
'reinforced cooperation' envisioned in the Treaty of Nice...and is a reasonable
response to the prospect of a Europe that risks losing, after its enlargement,
its original nature."
"Fear Of Losing Their Identity"
Former ambassador Boris Bianchieri opined in
influential, centrist La Stampa (9/15):
"Without a doubt, the Swedish 'no' will fall heavily on the project
for a European constitution and the great unknown of the [EU's]
enlargement.... The message from
Estonia, where...a net majority prevailed in favor of joining Europe, has
canceled out in part that which came from Stockholm. But only in part. The risk of a Europe divided in two, on one
side a Europe intending voluntarily to advance forward, and on the other a
skeptical Europe intending to remain behind, increased suddenly and strongly
with the Swedish referendum."
"Sweden's 'No' Vote"
Chief commentator Paul Geudens wrote in
conservative Christian-Democrat Gazet van Antwerpen (9/16): “The rest of Europe should draw lessons from
the Swedish ‘No.’ The conclusion is that
the EU is much less popular than its leaders like to pretend. There is much more going on than a
‘communication problem’--as they claimed last Monday. Do our leaders--all of them 1,000 percent
pro-Europe--not understand that there is a lot of hostility to the almighty and
money-wasting bureaucracy of officials in Brussels? Imagine that a referendum were organized in
our country--one of the most loyal supporters of Europe --about the so-much-praised
enlargement of Europe. I dare to claim
that a majority would not say ‘Yes’ to the accession of Poland, the Czech
Republic, Hungary and the others to the EU band of friends. The European leaders should not underestimate
that widespread skepticism.”
"Referendums And The EU"
Diplomatic correspondent Mia Doornaert judged in independent
Christian-Democrat De Standaard (9/16): “The (Swedish) ‘No’ to the euro does not only
show how deep the gap between ‘Brussels’ and the national populations is. After the Swedish referendum, the old question
is raised: would anything have become of the European Union if each common
decision in each member state had been submitted to a referendum? The euro would probably never have
existed--as it was clear that the Germans felt little enthusiasm for dumping
their strong Mark and replacing it by an uncertain European currency.”
"Setback For Europe"
EU affairs writer Kris Van Haver noted in financial daily De
Financieel-Economische Tijd (9/16):
“Europe seems to have lost its ties with its citizens and its concrete
ideals and policies. The project that
sparked enthusiasm in the early days in both Europe and elsewhere is now
perceived as a steamroller and uncontrollable powerful apparatus. In future referendums, it will be
increasingly difficult for Europe to make itself understood and accepted by the
citizens. Therefore, it is really very
much a pity that the concrete identification of the European project is hardly
an issue when the European Constitution is written. The government conference that is to finalize
that Constitution threatens to become entangled in a traditional struggle for
power among the member states--which the citizens hate and which makes the
monster only bigger. Big friendly giants
only exist in fairy tales. Bogeymen
mostly owe their bad reputation to themselves.
Unfortunately, Europe is turning into a bogeyman. The specter of a massive trashing of the
European project by the Union’s citizens is looming disturbingly.”
No: Bad Result--Democratic Victory"
Copenhagen's center-right Berlingske Tidende noted
(Internet version) (9/15): "The
'no' vote...on the euro was...the worst conceivable result for Sweden--without
a doubt. Nevertheless...the 'no' vote is
an indication that, despite the tragic murder of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh
last week, there was no problem carrying out the referendum.... However, the fact that democracy was able to
withstand an attack such as the one last week does not make a 'no' vote a wiser
solution for Sweden, which will have less influence on its own and on Europe's
economic policy now than it would have had with a 'yes' vote and it will now
take almost another decade before another referendum can be held. The 'no' vote could also have noticeable
consequences for Denmark. A Danish
referendum on the common currency was hardly moved closer by the Swedish
people's decision.... If nothing else,
one result of one of the most terrible weeks in recent Swedish history was that
democracy proved it works."
The center-right daily Jyllands-Posten held (Internet
version) (9/15): "Swedes will keep
the krona, having rejected the euro as their future currency.... Sweden followed Denmark in this, which is
regrettable, not only for the two Nordic neighbors' economic future, but also
and primarily for EU development and for the United Kingdom, which had looked
forward to a Swedish yes, which...would have had a positive psychological
effect on a British referendum.... The
lack of enthusiasm for the euro stood in glaring contrast to the unreserved EU
enthusiasm demonstrated by the Estonians in their referendum on EU
membership.... Sweden is divided on the
EU issue in a much different way than Denmark.
In Sweden, many parties are split right down the middle, and judging
from the analyses produced so far and the opinion polls, it is established and
well-off Sweden that voted yes, while less prosperous and average citizens
voted no. Unfortunately, it could prove
problematic for the country that popular support for the EU is lacking to such
"Even though the euro lost, yesterday's referendum was a
certain victory for Swedish democracy.
The tragic background [was] the murder of Foreign Minister Anna
Lindh.... [The vote] is a clear signal
that [Sweden] wants to regain the democratic self-confidence that it had
already suffered greatly after the murder of Olof Palme 17 years ago.... Aside from this tragic event, conditions,
especially for the pro-euro side, were the worst imaginable, considering that
influential EU countries--France and Germany--were, at the same time,
challenging current EMU budget regulations by breaking the rules and getting
away with it.... This seriously weakens
the issue's credibility. The pro-EMU
side had difficulty arguing convincingly in favor of the valuable effects of
cooperation when violations of the rules had no consequences and there are no
guarantees that member countries would comply with the rules that are supposed
to ensure healthy economic equilibrium."
FINLAND: "Sweden To
Keep Its Kroner At Least 10 Years"
Leading centrist daily Helsingin Sanomat remarked (Internet
version) (9/15): "When all is said
and done, the victory by the euro opponents was really quite decisive.... This was a severe political setback for the
cabinet and for Prime Minister Persson personally.... The victory by opponents of the euro in
Sweden is also a setback for the EU. In
Denmark, the other Nordic country that is outside the EMU, support for the euro
had been rallying, but the outcome of the Swedish referendum may very well also
have an impact in Denmark. The Swedish
outcome also means that Finland and Sweden will continue for another 10 years
to follow different tracks in the EU. As
the only Nordic country using the euro, Finland of course has a certain, unique
status thereby, but for the sake of Finnish-Swedish collaboration in all
aspects, it would have been more important for both to belong to the EMU, and
to have the same form of currency."
IRELAND: "Sweden Says
No To The Euro"
The center-left Irish Times editorialized
(9/15): “The murder of Ms. Anna Lindh
has made little or no difference to the outcome of Sweden's referendum on the
euro.... It is a tribute to Swedish
democracy in extreme adversity, and must be fully respected there and in the
rest of the European Union. It will
nevertheless have definite and regrettable consequences, whose lessons must be
absorbed in coming months and years....
Controversy about French, German and Italian breaches of the Stability
and Growth Pact overlapped with the Swedish referendum campaign. This gave many voters the impression that the
larger states can write the rules to suit themselves and reinforced their
belief that Sweden's relative prosperity is better protected from outside the
zone.... The single currency has been
successfully introduced and is functioning well as a key player in the
international economy. Its design and
optimal policy framework must be subject to continuing review, balanced against
the need to ensure its stability and credibility. These aspects need to be re-examined in the
light of the current economic downturn....
The lesson from Sweden is that large states in economic difficulties
cannot assume they can manipulate agreed and equitable rules at will.”
"Swedish Protest Against The Elite"
Newspaper of record Aftenposten took this
view (Internet version) (9/15):
"The victory for the side advocating a no vote...was not
surprising.... Swedish voters have
traditionally been far more inclined to vote the way their leaders have asked
than Norwegian ones are. Thus the
national referendum was a break with a tradition. Swedes used the vote to express a protest
against large segments of their political elite. The national referendum was held in a state
of social emergency because of the brutal and tragic killing of Foreign
Minister Anna Lindh. All party
leaders...agreed to hold the national referendum as planned.... Anything else would have been to allow
democracy to suffer a defeat on account of violence. That would have been far more serious....than
losing the national referendum....
Speculations about how the killing of Lindh have affected the outcome of
the referendum are useless....
"Nine years ago, when Sweden had much
greater economic problems than she does today, many people allowed themselves
to be convinced that the EU could contribute to providing greater security for
the future. This argument did not have
similar weight this year, now that economic conditions are better. And the average Swede is hardly particularly
concerned that the country's connection to the EU could be viewed as a
second-class membership, now that Sweden still has the krona as her currency
instead of the euro.... The fact that
Swedes have turned their back on the EU's currency cooperation is a defeat, in
any event a temporary one, for thinking about European integration. It is probable that Sweden's no will
strengthen the opposition to introducing the euro in the two other EU countries
that still have their own currencies, Great Britain and Denmark. But at the same time, the outcome of
yesterday's national referendum is a reminder that popular support for
ambitious international cooperative projects is important but far from a
"The 'No' Of Disenchantment"
Conservative Madrid daily ABC contended
(Internet version) (9/15):
"Sweden's rejection of the euro, a tangible expression of a project
under construction based on respect for shared rules, has psychological effects
which are quite a bit more serious than its practical effects, because the EU
membership of Sweden, which is complying with the convergence programme, and
its participation in a shared project, are now irreversible. But the 'no' vote acquires a political
dimension because it is the most discouraging evidence of a lack of faith in a
project based on rigour and discipline--the stability pact--recklessly called
into question by the interests of Germany and France, which are increasingly
uncomfortable in the suit they themselves designed. Sweden said 'no' to the single currency, a
rejection which, in passing, favours Great Britain's eurosceptic
Fierce Blow To Persson And To Europe"
Independent El Mundo editorialized
(Internet version) (9/15): "Sweden
said a firm 'no' to the euro...a fierce blow not only to the prime minister,
Goran Persson, but also to European construction.... Thousands of Swedes blame Europe for the
growing unemployment and for the lack of safety on their streets and they think
that greater economic integration will worsen these ills. They mistrust Brussels' red tape and do not
want to lose sovereignty.... In
contrast, the majority of the population of the big cities, the professional
classes and the most dynamic sectors of Swedish society leaned towards a 'yes'
vote, aware of the negative consequences which Sweden will probably have to pay
for staying outside the euro.
"Goran Persson, whose government has a very
precarious majority, was [the] big loser.
His political standing is almost exhausted.... It would not be surprising is yesterday's
debacle forced the calling of early elections or, at least, a government
reshuffle. But the EU itself is harmed
by this negative result since Sweden's 'no' highlights the unattractiveness of
a project which political and economically is taking on water. Added to the disunity displayed during the
Iraq war we now have the sorry spectacle of France and Germany refusing to
comply with the stability pact of which they were promoters. In the face of this sad prospect, Sweden has
opted to turn in on itself--an example which may be contagious for other
countries where the European star has also started to fade."
"Revolt Of The Swedes"
Left-of-center El Pais observed (Internet
version) (9/15): "With a clear 'no'
to the euro...the Swedes staged a revolt against their political and economic
elite and against Europe.... It may not
be 'no' for ever but it is for a long time....
The happiest person will be Blair.
A few months ago he would have preferred a victory for the 'yes' vote in
Sweden because it would have helped change British public opinion,
overwhelmingly opposed to the euro. But
with the internal problems caused by the Iraq war, the plan for a British
referendum on the euro has been shelved.
And if it is staying out, it is better for it to be in the company of
Sweden. And of Denmark, a country which
will also now find it harder to join a euro which would have benefited from
this addition and from spreading to the whole EU. Sweden's 'no' may accelerate the trends
towards a Europe of several speeds, with France and Germany in the middle. The victory of the Swedish revolt augurs
further difficulties in European integration, especially if there are
widespread referendums to approve the constitution of the Union which the
conference of government will begin negotiating in October."
"Blow To European Project"
Jeddah's English-language Arab News
commented (Internet version) (9/16):
"The effect of the Swedish vote on the euro itself and the 12 EU
states that have adopted it will be depressing.... Euroland continues to wallow in economic
problems while both the Swedish and UK economies are performing well. Worse, while both Germany and France seem
likely to break the rules of the Stability Pact upon which the currency was
founded, the French government seems determined to use what it believes are
loopholes, not only to allow it to increase its budget deficit above the three
percent limit but also to cut taxes next year.... The time may not be far off when the
international money markets begin to punish the euro for its inconsistencies
"At the heart of the whole euro issue is
the faith that the 300 million Europeans who must use it have in the
currency.... It also represents a key
step along the path toward a unified European superstate. Though accepting the principle of political
union, many EU citizens are unhappy about the timing. Yet euro-enthusiasts are still driving the
unification issue at a pace, which threatens to wreck their ambitions because
they are not carrying the man in the street with them. In pure economic terms, the euro could have
come about as a monetization of the old ecu....
Instead visionaries forced it through as a political step toward a truly
united Europe. Unfortunately it is not
yet a vision shared by the majority of Europeans. Yet the politicians continue to try
browbeating their people into accepting the vision now."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
"Sweden Gives The Euro The Brush-Off"
The lead editorial in the independent, English
language The Nation read (9/17):
“Sweden’s crushing rejection of the euro over the weekend should serve
as a wake-up call for the big euro-zone countries at a time when much of the
continent is mired in economic gloom and disagreement over budget
rules.... The overwhelming ‘no’ in
Sweden on Sunday...has only served to underscore the growing disquiet about the
way the euro zone manages its business....
Apart from highlighting the lack of attractiveness of the EU economy,
the Swedish referendum has bolstered euro-skeptics in other states, notably
Britain and Denmark, the only other two EU countries which remain outside the
euro zone.... To get its dream back on
track, the euro-zone countries urgently need to find a consensus to encourage
economic recovery. That means overcoming
divisions on the Stability and Growth Pact, and putting in place a positive
strategy for reform and modernization, particularly of the agricultural
sector. As long as the euro zone’s
economic performance is so bleak, no one is going to be keen to join.”