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Tuesday, 4 December, 2001, 13:45 GMT
'Problems' threaten euro launch
Euro notes
Failure to distribute cash might have disastrous effects
Patrick Bartlett

The European Union's Monetary Affairs Commissioner, Pedro Solbes, has said there are still unresolved problems relating to the euro changeover in less than four weeks' time.

He was commenting on discussions held by eurozone finance ministers in Brussels about the introduction of euro notes and coins on 1 January.

EU Commissioner Pedro Solbes
Mr Solbes says the next few weeks will be crucial

There is also concern that one of Europe's most ambitious post-war projects is taking place amid a deepening economic slowdown.

It is understood that the problems include delays in Italy delivering euro cash to small retailers, and a threat by French bank workers to hold a strike in the new year.

Any disruption to the distribution of euro cash in December, or during the first few weeks of the changeover could have disastrous consequences.

Mr Solbes also announced plans in the new year for a daily exchange of information between member states on how the changeover was progressing.

Slowdown

He said the European Commission would monitor the EU-wide picture, and recommend any necessary action.

Ministers were also briefed by the President of the European Central Bank, Wim Duisenberg.

In public, he is confident that enough currency has been produced for circulation among the zone's 300 million citizens.

But he will have been less confident about the state of the eurozone economy.

Germany is on the verge of recession, and all euro-member countries are struggling against widening budget deficits.

The German Finance Minister, Hans Eichel, apparently told ministers he expected growth in his country, the eurozone's biggest economy, to be little better next year.

Mr Solbes said Germany's situation in particular would have to be closely monitored.

Berlin is close to the 3% limit for budget deficits permitted by the Maastricht treaty.

However, Mr Solbes said he did not think that was too great a cause for concern.

See also:

05 Sep 01 | Africa
Euro printing hits Africa
28 Aug 01 | Europe
Cross-channel views of the euro
24 May 01 | Business
Worries over euro change
16 May 01 | Media reports
Euro ousts franc on French forecourts
02 Jul 01 | Europe
Paris gets to know the euro
18 May 01 | Europe
Swiss Alps no barrier to euro
13 Apr 01 | Europe
The euro non-revolution
31 Oct 01 | Europe
Farewell to the Franc
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