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Voice of America, 02-01-08

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://>

SLUG: 7-35786 Dateline: The euro DATE: NOTE NUMBER:


  • [01] The Euro BY Pat Bodnar (Washington)

  • [01] The Euro BY Pat Bodnar (Washington)

    DATE=January 8, 2002
    EDITOR=Neal Lavon

    INTRO: On January first, Europeans began using a new single currency, the euro. It became legal tender in twelve nations with a combined population of 300 million. A single currency has long been the dream of European leaders from Charlemagne to Napoleon. But what does the euro mean both economically and politically for the continent? Here's VOA's Pat Bodnar on Dateline.

    TAPE: CUT 1, (BEGINS WITH NAT SOUND FIREWORKS, ESTABLISH AND FADE) TIME: 13 SECS PB: Sound and light shows ushered in the New Year in Brussels. And with just as much fanfare, the euro made its debut in Belgian wallets, cash registers and banks. The currency also became legal tender for the rest of the 300 million people residing in the twelve other countries that make up the "eurozone". Just three years after the euro's birth as a virtual currency-a financial instrument used by banks but not ordinary citizens--Europeans from Portugal to Finland, and from Ireland to Greece, have given up their own national currency for the brand-new euro notes and coins. Despite shortages and lines at cash registers and bank machines, European merchants and shoppers appear to be taking the new currency in stride. Hans Vorster sells flowers in Frankfurt's railroad station. He says his main concern was that he didn't have enough euros to give out in change to his customers. So he worked out a temporary solution.

    TAPE: CUT 2, VORSTER ACT TIME: 10 SECS "When the customer pays with euros, he gets back euros. When he pays with D-marks, he will get back D-marks." PB: Lionel Barber is the editor of the Financial Times' European Edition. He says despite the widespread publicity, people living in eurozone countries still are learning about the new currency.

    TAPE: CUT 3, FIRST BARBER ACT TIME: 24 SECS "You have to remember that the euro has only been a virtual currency. It has been handed around on sheets of paper in the financial markets, in the big banks. But when it comes down to that small retailer in Bologna, or outside Athens, or even up in the wild wastes of northern Finland, these people have had no contact with the euro, and certainly no contact with the coins." PB: Plans for the euro were floated, then abandoned, in the 1970's. The decision to go ahead was finally taken at a European Union Summit in the Dutch town of Maastricht in 1991. To create the common currency, the Treaty of Maastricht set limits on the debt, budget deficits, and inflation rates for participating E-U nations. Those criteria were difficult for many E-U countries to meet. Initially, Britain, Denmark and Sweden decided not to join the Euro club. But British Prime Minister Tony Blair has promised a referendum on the issue when he says economic conditions are right. His ruling Labor Party favors adopting the euro, while the opposition Conservative Party says they will never back the currency. Prime Minister Blair's deputy, John Prescott, told British radio that a government decision could be coming fairly soon.

    TAPE: CUT 4, PRESCOTT ACT. :17 SECS "What we have made clear is that we will look at it by the early part of this government we will make a judgement. That judgement is on the way. And then that judgement will be put to the electorate. If we believe it is in the interest of Britain, and Tony Blair has made clear in his New Year message as well, that he believes it may be, if the conditions are right." PB: The hope and expectation of European Union leaders is that the euro will strengthen Europe's economy by eliminating currency exchange costs making it easier to do business across the continent. The common currency, the thinking goes, will also help fuel competition and hold back inflation, giving shoppers even more opportunities to compare prices across the continent. But there is also a major political goal behind the launch of the euro. Many European officials believe that the euro is not merely a visible symbol of European unity, but the potential instrument to drive a new round of political integration. VOA's Barry Wood explains.

    TAPE: CUT 5, BARRY WOOD ACT., TIME: 1:18 "I was watching the television as Roman Prodi who is the principal European official, he's the president of the Commission, a former Italian prime minister. He said, in answer to a question, 'the euro is a political project much more than it's an economic project.' Now this won't give comfort to a lot of people who said, 'aha, we always thought this was a political project, like in Britain.' But here's why it is a significant issue. What you've got, when you think about it, is one money for twelve countries. You have one central bank called the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. There is one interest rate for those twelve countries. But there are still twelve governments each setting a spending and taxation policies. There is theoretical harmony among those twelve governments. But the Italian and Dutch governments can do what they want. This is why it is such a great theoretical experiment. You cannot ascertain how it will necessarily turn out." PB: Joschka Fischer, Germany's Foreign Minister, along with Romano Prodi, head of the European Commission, said the creation of the euro was a "political act". One popular idea promoted by Mr. Prodi and French prime minister Lionel Jospin, is the appointment of a single economic spokesman, who could speak on behalf of the eurozone at international economic forums. Other ideas have also been floated by European leaders. They include what is called "harmonization" or uniformity of corporate and other taxes. Also under discussion is the creation of a bailout fund to help countries in financial trouble. French Finance Minister Laurent Fabius is among the European politicians who believe the new currency will pave the way for tighter European unity.

    TAPE: CUT 6, FABIUS ACT TIME :18 SECS "I think it's really, this time, a historical moment. Very often we use the word "historical" and it's not historical. This time it isand it's not only a question of the new currency. It's a new stage in the building of the European Union." PB: Observers trying to comprehend the enormity of the event, note that no currency has been circulated so widely since the Roman Empire. It begs the question as to whether this latest development in the making of a "new" Europe will lead to pan-European political union or a single currency and nothing more. The Financial Times' Lionel Barber says there is no turning back now.

    TAPE: CUT 7, BARBER 2ND ACT., TIME: 19 SECS "Everybody has been building up for this. It has been three years they've been preparing for the launch of notes and coins. The euro itself has been planned for forty years. We locked exchange rates on January 1, 1999. And I think technically, and politically, it is a big success story for Europe." PB: But a significant segment of European opinion leaders still harbor some doubt about the overall strength of the euro. As VOA's Barry Wood says, euro boosters maintain that the currency is strong and will lead to more economic benefits than losses.

    TAPE: CUT 8, WOOD 2ND CUT, TIME: 1:24 "That is the hope of the central bank in Frankfurt, that they have a very solid money, one that people believe in, and that they regard as a store of value, equal to the United States dollar or twenty years ago, what gold was. But I think that is why some of the skeptics or scholars of the European Monetary Union project are not quite so euphoric as some of the people we hear reporting in the business pages now. And here is the reason. Since its introduction as a currency-no notes and no coins but existed as a currency beginning in 1999--the euro has lost about 30 percent of its value against the dollar. It has also lost a lesser amount against the Swiss franc, the British pound and the Japanese yen. Not a good sign. That is a three-year period. Why did it seem so weak? Some would say it is weak because the Italians are in the project. The Greeks and the Spanish and Portuguese are in the project are in the project. It is no longer the strong German mark setting the foundation for the whole currency. In other words, some weak high inflation countries are in the project and that may explain its weakness." PB: Polls show that about 50 percent of Europeans are wholeheartedly in favor of the new currency. And in the only European vote to be held on the issue, Denmark last year rejected the euro, striking fear into E-U leaders about similar referendums planned for Sweden and Britain. But European Union officials are betting that the adoption of the euro will lead to a more prosperous and politically unified Europe, and their decision will be right on the money. For Dateline, I'm Pat Bodnar. SLUG: 2-284998 Macedonia Pol (L) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:



    INTRO: Macedonia's parliament is set to reconvene next week (January 14th) to consider further measures to implement last August's peace agreement that ended six months of armed conflict with ethnic Albanian rebels. V-O-A's Barry Wood is in Skopje, where he has found that Macedonians are in a sullen mood with many blaming the western powers for forcing through an agreement they believe favors the minority Albanians.

    TEXT: The framework agreement negotiated at Lake Ohrid that ended months of armed conflict in Macedonia is still not fully implemented. The European Union and the United States say that until parliament adopts measures granting autonomy to Albanian-populated areas promised budgetary assistance will remain blocked. Macedonia had hoped that a conference of aid donors would have taken place last October and that by now aid would be flowing into the country. Fighting has stopped in Macedonia and a German-led NATO force for several months now has been effectively keeping the peace. Under terms of the peace agreement, the rebels handed over more than three-thousand weapons in return for amnesty. More than 200 cease-fire monitors are in Macedonia and ethnic tension has been reduced. But with Macedonia facing parliamentary elections - possibly as early as May - aside from the president (Boris Trajkovsky) few politicians Macedonian or Albanian are willing to say that the ethnic conflict is being resolved. Some observers fear that fighting could resume once the heavy winter snows have melted. Macedonian public opinion has turned solidly away from support for NATO, and the popularity of the politicians who signed the Ohrid accord has plummeted. One analyst observes that the majority Macedonians feel frustrated believing the peace accord was forced upon them compromising their national identity. Meanwhile, the minority Albanians are seen as winners because they have won the right to use their language in parliament, exercise regional autonomy and have much greater representation in the police force. Stability in Macedonia is critical to the future of the southern Balkans. With only two-million inhabitants, the mountainous Republic of Macedonia is bordered by states suffering their own significant recent problems. To the northwest is Kosovo, a base for last year's insurgency, where there is a large NATO and United Nations presence. Macedonia's other neighbors are Serbia to the north, Bulgaria, Albania and Greece. Each of these neighbors is very concerned about the possibility of renewed ethnic conflict in Macedonia. (Signed)
    NEB/BW/GE/MEM SLUG: 6-125519 Tuesday's Editorials DATE: NOTE NUMBER:



    INTRO: The apparent suicide of a Florida teenager who flew a small plane into a Tampa office building is sharing top space in Tuesday's editorials with Argentina's financial crisis and the contraband Palestinian arms shipment seized aboard ship in the Red Sea. Other editorials in the nation's press include a growing feud between the Democratic Senate leader and President Bush over an economic stimulus plan; the Afghan conflict; and the India -- Pakistan confrontation. Now, here with a closer look is ________ and today's U-S Opinion Roundup.

    TEXT: Less than four months after a pair of hijacked airliners crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, another skyscraper has suffered a plane crash. Over the weekend in Tampa, Florida a 15-year-old boy student pilot, apparently bent on suicide flew a small plane into the 20th floor of a Tampa bank. It is eliciting a great deal of comment. In Texas, The San Antonio Express-News says the country needs to do a better job of identifying and reaching out to troubled youth. And it asks:

    VOICE: ... why can 15-year-olds, who barely can drive [automobiles] with restrictions, take flying lessons and have access to airplanes?

    TEXT: A worried Denver Post in Colorado says the crash: "...serves to illustrate how vulnerable the United States remains to terrorist attack, despite all the measures implemented since September eleventh." Calling the event "a chilling aerial suicide," The New York Times agrees and suggests:

    VOICE: The tragedy underlines the need for the federal government to review and tighten security in the lightly regulated world of privately operated aircraft ... private plane owners must be asked to accept some restrictions on their vaunted freedoms.

    TEXT: On the broader issue of airport security, Portland's Oregonian, noting that thousands of privately employed airport security screeners may lose their jobs due to heightened federal competency standards says: "Too bad" and it calls on the government n o t to relax the standards. Argentina's financial crisis, highlighted by the largest debt default ever this week, continues to draw comment. California's San Jose Mercury News says "Go ahead and cry for Argentina. So much potential, so tragically unrealized."

    VOICE: Easily the richest country in Latin America, Argentina has been wracked by riots and a revolving door presidency - - four resignations in two weeks - - as its economy crumbles. ... No debacle as comprehensive as Argentina's has only one cause. The International Monetary Fund and the United States, much the same thing, [Editors: a reference to the disproportionate U-S contribution to the I-M-F] could have provided earlier assistance to move the country off the dollar/peso equivalence. They should be more flexible in providing assistance now. Argentines, meanwhile, can do much to right their own ship.

    TEXT: Looking for at least some good news out of the crisis, Charleston's [South Carolina] Post and Courier says it may be that: "... Eduardo Duhalde, chosen by Congress as the country's fifth president since December 22nd, may not be as bad as his record or his statements suggest." Americans should care about the Argentine crisis says the Minneapolis, Minnesota Star Tribune for several reasons, including contagion; billions of U-S dollars invested in the country and the grief default is wreaking on the Argentine people. Turning to the Middle East, that large shipment of arms captured by Israeli agents on a Palestinian ship in the Red Sea is bemoaned by a number of American dailies. A livid New York Post says in part:

    VOICE: Yasser Arafat still denies that he and the Palestinian Authority had anything to do with the deadly arsenal that Israel intercepted on the high seas last Friday. Never mind that the ship's captain ...yesterday publicly confessed that the smuggled weapons ... were indeed destined for the Palestinians. ... It's time for Washington finally go get tough with [Chairman] Arafat. Nearly a decade of offering him carrots simply hasn't worked. It's time to apply the stick...

    TEXT: In Missouri, a disgruntled Saint Louis Post-Dispatch adds:

    VOICE: The discovery of the arms ...was a big propaganda victory for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who flew to the site of the weapons seizure to milk [Editors: U-S slang for "to gain every bit of"] the PR [Public Relations] value. Mr. Arafat lamely disclaimed responsibility. ...[He] is going to have trouble persuading anyone to take him at his word, when he so blatantly violates his promise not to bring weapons into the Middle East.

    TEXT: Pennsylvania's Allentown Morning Call says the "weapons cache casts a pall over Mideast talks," while The New York Times sniffs: [The] Smuggled Arms in the Mideast ... could [ultimately] make future negotiations about a peace settlement, or even a formal cease-fire, virtually impossible. Domestically, there is a growing chorus of disgust at the emerging political gridlock in Washington over an economic stimulus package. Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle, a Democrat, is locked in battle with President George W. Bush and many papers see it as the beginning of the next political campaign or even the 2004 presidential race. In Ohio, The Cincinnati Post complains:

    VOICE: ...[Senator] ...Daschle, in a speech launching the 2002 mid-term election contest, argued that the Republicans have made a fiscal and economic mess of things with their tax cuts. But, he quickly added, he and his fellow Democrats sure do not want to do away with those tax cuts. It was a self-contradictory performance from the South Dakota senator.

    TEXT: In California, the Fresno Bee assesses the situation this way:

    VOICE: ... Senate Majority Leader ... Daschle started things off with a somewhat academic critique of the current budget bind created by the president's tax cut. President Bush responded with his pledge that taxes would be raised ... "over my dead body." ... The fiscal reality does not make either [Mr.] Daschle's timidity or the president's bluster look very attractive. ... The big long-term budget surplus ... has largely evaporated, partly because of the recession, partly because of last year's tax cut.

    TEXT: And in Tennessee, The Chattanooga Free Press feels the Daschle speech "opened his 2004 presidential campaign by announcing "he believes in high taxes." As for Afghanistan-related topics, the debate over whether the federal trial of the man suspected of aiding the September 11th airline hijackers should be televised continues. Minnesota's Saint Paul Pioneer Press feels the trial should be televised and so does The Dallas [Texas] Morning News, which argues:

    VOICE: Allowing television coverage of Mr. Moussaoui's trial lends support and credence to the strength of the United States justice system.

    TEXT: On the trail of international terrorism, as U-S troops begin to filter into the Southern Philippines to aid that nation with al-Qaida-related Muslim forces, today's Honolulu Advertiser advises caution in keeping the troops strictly in an advisory capacity. The Los Angeles Times comments on the increased tensions between India and Pakistan, noting that: "Pakistan has already made steps to meet Indian demands that it rein in terrorists. Now it's up to India to respond, either with a troop pullback or by agreeing to negotiations or, better yet, both." On that cautionary note, we conclude this sampling of editorial comment from Tuesday's U-S press.

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