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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 14:05 GMT
Lapland towns juggle the euro
Christmas in a  Finnish shopping mall
Finns like to take advantage of lower prices in Sweden
By the BBC's Charles Rhodes in Lapland

The two Lapland towns of Tornio and Haparanda face a unique challenge as they count down to the euro's launch on 1 January.

They straddle the border between Finland, which has joined the currency club, and Sweden, which has not.

Business owners are gearing up for the switch.

One of the Finnish euro currency coins
Finland is the only Nordic country to join the euro
Tornio, the oldest town in Northern Scandinavia, received its charter in 1621.

But its strategic position as a gateway into Lapland has bequeathed it an often violent history.

Ruled at various times by Russian tsars and Swedish kings, Tornio has only become Finnish in the last 200 years.

So it is not surprising that as you wander around the stalls selling Christmas food and crafts, the cold air echoes with both Swedish and Finnish voices.

Cultural mix

The porridge, Christmas cards and artwork can also be paid for with Finnish marks and Swedish crowns. All that matters is that you can pay.

But the easy-going atmosphere is about to become a little more complicated.


We just have to try and swing with the rates and I think we may even make a little loss and perhaps a little profit here and there

Haparanda supermarket owner Kare Mogemark
Sweden, just over a kilometre away on the other side of the border, has decided to stay out of the euro.

This has put it at odds with Finland - the only Nordic country to join the new currency.

But few people are worried.

"It will be exciting to use the new euro," says Finnish student Yoni Alasrukkooyr.

Low prices

Across the border in Haparanda, the town the Swedes built when they lost control of Tornio, the local supermarket is doing a roaring trade.

More than a third of the shoppers have come over from Finland to take advantage of Sweden's low prices.

That is why Finnish marks are readily accepted.

A Finnish Santa in his grotto
Santa's traditional home - Lapland - covers parts of Sweden and Finland
It is also why, although Sweden has decided not to join the euro, the supermarket will also be accepting euros when the new currency is launched on New Year's Day.

Supermarket owner Kare Mogemark chooses his words carefully when I ask him how he will cope with the introduction of the euro:

"We just have to try and swing with the rates and I think we may even make a little loss and perhaps a little profit here and there. But I think we will manage."

Customer demand

Privately, Swedish business owners in Haparanda are unhappy that Sweden has decided to stay out of the euro.

They have, in effect, won themselves a special dispensation to take euros - which won't be accepted elsewhere in Sweden.

The reason for this becomes clear when I ask one Finnish shopper, out to buy bread with his wife, whether he would stop coming if the supermarket refused to take euros.

"Yes most definitely," he told me.

"Supermarkets at Haparanda would die because the Finns would not come here anymore. The Finnish people shop a lot on the Swedish side of the border."

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The BBC's Charles Rhodes
"Even though Sweden has decided not to join the Euro, it will soon be excepting them"

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21 Nov 01 | Business
10 Aug 01 | Business
30 Oct 01 | Business
04 Dec 01 | Europe
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