One of their key arguments, much-used in the campaign, runs as follows: with Sweden in the eurozone, the Bank of Sweden will no longer be able to set interest rates – as if Sweden has been able to do that independently for the past 40 years, which of course it has not. The other loss highlighted by the ‘No’ camp is the freedom to devalue the national currency. However, this is a very dubious economic measure in the long run, and one often used in the past as an instrument to avoid dealing with the structural problems in the economy.Right from the start, both sides bombarded the general public with the message that the issue of joining the eurozone is one of economics – while in fact it is clearly a very serious political matter. Even today, Sweden is to a large extent a marginal country in the Union – and a ‘No’ vote will marginalize us further, with serious consequences for our political influence. The negative impact will linger long. Within this context, Prime Minister Göran Persson only changed his message exceedingly late in the campaign – perhaps too late. The ‘No’ campaign has succeeded in striking some chords in Swedish society. If Sweden joins the eurozone, it is claimed that the welfare state (or what is left of it) will disappear. The only way forward – the argument runs – is to stand alone and defend the welfare state, using all possible economic instruments at our command in order to preserve what we have. But what can we defend, with Sweden depending on the outside world and with a minor currency, which can be easily downsized by the big economic powers – not to mention a partly sagging industry? The Social Democratic Party is divided, which might explain why the prime minister tried to remain aloof from the euro debate for such a long time. He may perhaps be recalling the split in the Norwegian Social Democratic Party, following the first unsuccessful referendum about joining the EU.The part of my family which is French has observed that, in most EU countries, the horrific memories of war are carried forward from generation to generation. In Sweden, which has not known a real war for several hundred years, the risk of conflict is absent from the national mindset. Therefore, the argument that the European Union is a project to consolidate peace does not touch the heartstrings of the Swedes. ONLY a miracle can now change the outcome of the Swedish referendum on 14 September to a ‘Yes’ for the euro. Sweden, which for so long took pride in its international outlook, has increasingly turned on itself in recent years. This is odd, as the Swedish economy is still heavily dependent on foreign trade and a healthy world economy. For many observers of the Swedish political scene, it is hard to explain why those responsible for the ‘Yes’ campaign, from the prime minister downwards, waited so long to start campaigning. The opposition camp has long since been dominated by Eurosceptics – in other words, those who want Sweden to leave the European Union: left-wing social democrats, the former communists, the green party and the centre party (or at least a large part of it), together with a number of trade unions, constitute the core of the ‘No’ coalition. This group has been active for a long time, running a low-key campaign against the euro. They are supported by associations of small businesses and several eminent economists, who argue that Sweden will lose its freedom to run its own economy, particularly in the downturn of the business cycle. Indeed, if they can avoid having too much to do with southern Europeans other than enjoying their good food and sunny beaches, then so much the better. Erik Pierre, a former ambassador in the Swedish diplomatic service, is a writer on international affairs.
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