Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sweden Mourns on Way to Polls ; on the Eve of Sunday's Euro Vote, the Nordic Nation Is Rocked by Foreign Minister's Murder

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sweden Mourns on Way to Polls ; on the Eve of Sunday's Euro Vote, the Nordic Nation Is Rocked by Foreign Minister's Murder

Article excerpt

The death of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh Thursday put a somber note on Sweden's referendum on adopting the euro.

The attack Wednesday on Ms. Lindh, which police said did not appear to be politically motivated, came in the last stages of campaigning, as Lindh and other euro proponents tried to persuade voters that Sweden should embrace the common currency used by 12 European countries.

Lindh was the second Swedish politician to be slain in the Nordic country in 17 years. Her murder was a rare act of public violence in a nation that has cultivated a mild-mannered and open society and given citizens easy access to their leaders. Like Prime Minister Olof Palme - who was killed in 1986 while walking home from a movie theater with his wife - Lindh had no bodyguards. Mr. Palme's murder has not been solved.

Prime Minister Goeran Persson said that government leaders had considered delaying the referendum for a month, or even a year, but then decided it should proceed, although campaigning has been halted.

The latest Gallup poll shows that 47 percent of Swedes would reject the euro, while only 35 percent wanted the euro in the Sept. 3-9 survey, down 3 percentage points from a Gallup poll a week earlier. Eighteen percent were undecided.

A Swedish "no" would be a blow to the common currency and European integration and a boost to euro opponents in Britain and Denmark, the other European Union members that have kept their own currencies.

David and Goliath

Many Swedes view the referendum as a battle between David and Goliath - little Sweden against mighty Europe - or even a class struggle as European integration will increase the riches of the rich and well-educated who will benefit from opportunities opened up through European integration.

Opponents have argued that adopting the euro would put their cradle-to-grave welfare state too much under the control of the rest of Europe, with its economic and sometimes political turmoil.

Lindh, who died Thursday after being stabbed Wednesday in a Stockholm department store by an unidentified assailant, was an ardent euro advocate. Urging adoption, she had said that "if Sweden is to remain a country with a good and generous welfare system, it needs more resources. A common currency will bring more trade and lower interest rates."

Asked how the murder might affect the vote, Mr. Persson said: "On the one hand, the 'yes' side could get some sympathy from this, but on the other hand, we are canceling all campaign activities."

Sweden's euro supporters say a "no" vote would leave the country of 9 million without a voice when crucial economic decisions are taken in the 15-member EU. They predict adopting the euro would spur Sweden's economy by easing trade with the euro-zone. They also warn a small currency like the krona is more vulnerable to currency speculation than the euro, the world's second most-traded currency. …

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