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SUPPORT FOR EURO RISING IN NEW EUROPEAN UNION MEMBER STATES

Single currency campaign welcome in Slovakia

NEWS that the European Commission was preparing a tender for a single currency promotion and information campaign was welcomed in Slovakia, despite already rising support for the euro in acceding states, including Slovakia.
Slovak Central Bank (NBÚ) representatives said they supported all activities that help increase public awareness of the European Monetary Union (EMU) and the impact of the introduction of the currency on the people, even though the country itself does not have any plans to run a similar campaign in the foreseeable future.

NEWS that the European Commission was preparing a tender for a single currency promotion and information campaign was welcomed in Slovakia, despite already rising support for the euro in acceding states, including Slovakia.

Slovak Central Bank (NBS) representatives said they supported all activities that help increase public awareness of the European Monetary Union (EMU) and the impact of the introduction of the currency on the people, even though the country itself does not have any plans to run a similar campaign in the foreseeable future.

"We welcome all initiatives that will contribute to informing the public about the single currency. We think the public should be educated about the euro and what it will mean for them," NBÚ spokesman Igor Barát said to The Slovak Spectator on November 24.

"It is possible that we will run a similar campaign, but so far we have no details about that, as the planned adoption of the euro in our country is still far ahead of us," he said.

The ten new member states, which are expected to enter the EU in May 2004, have individual visions for the dates of their respective adoptions of the euro, which is dependent upon their fulfilment of the Maastricht criteria, a set of economic measures that the states must meet before they can enter the monetary union.

Among the criteria, for example, is cutting the fiscal deficit to three percent of GDP, arguably one of the toughest goals in the majority of the acceding states. In the Visegrad Four (V4) area, which includes Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, for instance, the introduction of the single currency is generally planned for sometime towards the end of the decade.

Yet the European Commission's (EC) plan, as reported by the EU observer wire in mid November, was to run the campaign as early as next year and spend €2 million from EU coffers in the year 2004 alone.

Western Euro-sceptics have found the plan to be proof that the EU itself is not sure of the popularity of its own currency and fears that EU citizens will oppose it.

This claim, however, remained unsupported in Slovakia, where Euro-sceptics virtually do not exist, and even those who call themselves Euro-realists support the country's EU entry and the adoption of the euro.

According to the unofficial text of the specifications on the information and communication tender available on the website of the EC, the aim of the campaign is "not just to improve the coordination of information and communication activities in the fields of the EMU, the euro, and economic policy, but also to expand and improve its information and communication policy in those areas. Ultimately, the aim is to raise awareness of the rules and policies which make up the economic and monetary union."

"As a general rule, the activities covered by this invitation to the tender are likely to take place in the 15 member states and in the ten future member states, but may also be outside the EU itself, and particularly in other European countries, whether or not they have applied for membership, or in countries further afield (such as the United States or Japan)," the call for tender material read.

The Slovak Spectator asked the EC to provide more information about the event but had received no response by the time this article went to print. The information available on the internet, however, stated that the campaign should consist of drafting and producing copy for information products, cooperation with the specialist press, as well as the organization and management of events such as conferences, exhibitions, and information stands.

Moreover, states such as Slovakia are, in general, largely pro-EU and, consequently, pro-euro, although it is admitted that Euro-optimism may be a direct result of the absence of information on possible negative short-term impacts the currency's introduction could have in these states. "Rather than promotion of the euro, which would be practically needless considering the high support for EU entry, Slovakia could profit from all campaigns will inform the public as much as possible about the currency," said Barát.

The high popularity of the single currency was confirmed in the most recent Eurobarometer survey, which studied the opinions of new member states and three EU candidates, Romania, Bulgaria, and Malta, on various aspects of the EU and its policies.

The survey, published on October 10, showed that, in general, support for joining the euro has risen to an average of 72 percent in the acceding states, up by three points from spring this year.

Fears that acceding states would reject the euro were also found to be ungrounded, as the new members already committed themselves to adopting the currency by signing their respective accession treaties with the EU this past spring. Their commitment was later confirmed in referenda on the countries' willingness to enter the union.

Consequently, no people's votes are expected to take place in the new member states when the time comes for them to take substantial steps towards the adoption of the euro, such as entering the ERM-2 exchange rate mechanism, in which states adopting the euro have to stay for at least two years before their citizens can earn in euros.

In the 15-member EU, meanwhile, three states have not adopted the currency - Great Britain, Sweden, and Denmark - with the decision left to the nation's politicians or to direct votes by citizens.

Peter Papanek, spokesman for the Slovak Finance Ministry, said on November 25 that a proposal of "a concrete time plan for replacing the Slovak crown with the euro should be published by the NBS and the Finance Ministry by the end of the first half of 2004."

"For Slovakia it is important that the country does not enter the EMU later than its neighbours and those states with whom it has considerable trade and economic relations," said Papanek.

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