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Thursday, 13 December, 2001, 09:08 GMT
Shoppers suspect fiddles as euro looms
Dudelange supermarket
Dudelange prepares for the euro
The arrival of the euro is imminent, with the first coins due to be handed out at the end of this week. BBC News Online's James Arnold is on a tour of the eurozone to take the region's temperature ahead of this momentous changeover. His fourth report comes from the small town of Dudelange, on the border between Luxembourg and France.

At this time of year, Rita Stazioni's tabac in Dudelange is usually busy selling wrapping paper and gift books to Christmas shoppers.

Rita Stazioni, shop-keeper
Rita Stazioni is selling calculators
This year, however, the item most in demand has been a pocket calculator. "I think everyone in town must have one by now," Mrs Stazioni says.

"Without one, they'd have absolutely no hope of working out what everything costs."

It takes a lot to disturb the semi-rural calm of this little town.

But the imminent arrival of the euro, it seems, has ruffled quite a few feathers.

Cosmopolitan, but conservative

Jammed between bigger neighbours, tiny Luxembourg must be among the most cosmopolitan nations in Europe - even its newspapers are printed in three languages.

Dudelange high street
The cosmopolitan town has euro worries
And Dudelange - or Duedlingen, or Duddeleng, depending on your linguistic preference - ought to be more cosmopolitan than average.

It's just over a mile from the French frontier, and has an unusually high proportion of foreign inhabitants, including substantial Italian and Portuguese communities.

But there is little sense of pan-European solidarity at the Match supermarket, the town's unofficial social centre.

Money worries

"This is a load of nonsense," sniffs Hubert Vinozay, picking through the pile of leaflets in front of Match's euro information display.

Match's euro information display
Match provides customers with euro information
"It won't do any good for Luxembourg, or for Dudelange."

Another pensioner, Meinhard Gruell, agrees.

"Let them change the currency if they must, but why couldn't we have had the Deutschmark or something like that instead?"

Inflation by stealth

Strip away the political bluster, however, and most Dudelangers' objections to the euro boil down to the same fear felt all over the eurozone - that it will allow retailers to hike prices without anyone noticing.
Paulette Rattel, music shop owner
Paulette Rattel tries to reassure her customers

Paulette Rattel, who runs the town's music shop, says she has made every effort to calm her clients' nerves on this score.

"But many of them - especially the older ones - refuse to believe that they won't be cheated," she sighs.

Back at Match, this view seems to be strongly held.

Fernandes family who run the bakery
The bakery wants to help customers understand the euro
"Many shop-owners are honest, of course," says Edith Peyron.

"But whenever things change, some people set out to make money out of it. It was the same after the war."

And some prices certainly have gone up.

In the tabac, Mrs Stazioni bemoans the fact that her favourite plat du jour in the local cafe is going up from its historic 295 francs to eight euros, or just over 320 francs.

Retailers fight back

Sensible retailers have bent over backwards to convince suspicious customers that they are on the side of the angels.

Patric Alves, the butcher
Patric Alves says it's a storm in a teacup
At their bakery, the Fernandes family have set up a euro display, and say they have made every effort to walk their clients through the effects of the changeover.

But next door at the butcher's shop, Patric Alves says the whole thing is a storm in a tea-cup.

"It's a big change, and some people here don't like change that much," he says.

"But in a couple of months, they will have forgotten all about it."


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