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Swedish Rejection of Euro Draws Mixed Reaction - 2003-09-15

European reaction to Sweden's rejection of the euro common currency in a Sunday referendum was a mixture of relief and disappointment. Euro opponents are claiming victory, but euro backers say the common currency will continue to make headway.

The EU executive Commission says the euro remains the world's second-most important currency and will continue to bring advantages to those who use it. European Commission President Romano Prodi put things a little more bluntly, telling Swedish television that Sweden would lose influence in Europe by staying out of the euro.

Sweden, Britain and Denmark are the only members of the 15 nation European Union that do not use the euro. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen says the result of the Swedish vote will have no effect on his plans to decide by early next year on whether to call a new referendum on the euro. Denmark voted no in 2000.

British Labor Party member Chris Bryant, who is chairman of the Labor Movement for Europe, says that more than half of Britain's trade is with Europe, and he hopes Britain will be joining the euro as soon as possible. British Prime Minister Tony Blair had said previously his government is committed in principle to joining the euro, provided that economic conditions are right.

In Sweden, meanwhile, euro opponents have hailed the defeat of the single currency. The leader of the Left Party, Ulla Hoffman, said the people have made it clear democracy comes from the bottom, not from above. The Left Party, along with the environmentalist Greens, fought against the euro.

But Prime Minister Goran Persson, who led the movement for the euro, said Sweden will have worse opportunities without the common currency in the long term.

Euro backers say it would have improved trade with the 12 nation zone that uses the euro, and that a no vote would leave Sweden without a voice in EU economic decisions. Critics said the euro would mean higher prices and less money for Sweden's cradle-to-grave welfare state.