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Estonians never wanted the euro

17:01, Posted by EUDemocrats, No Comment

The first of January - the day Estonia started to replace the kroon with the euro, was a sad day for Estonia and for Europe.

Estonia is switching to the euro during the worst crisis in the history of the common currency. And by joining the euro without a referendum, the Estonian government is not only gambling with the Baltic nation's economy and welfare but also with its democracy and its right to self-determination.

Opinion polls have shown that a majority of Estonians are not only against the euro but also want a referendum on the issue.

In October 2010, 1,524 people were surveyed by Estonia's leading social and market research provider Saar Poll. In an answer to the question, "Do you support the transition from the Estonian kroon to euro?" 53 percent of the respondents said No to the euro, only 34 percent said Yes, and 13 percent did not have an opinion.

Two months later, the support shrunk even further. A poll from 29 December 2010 by the Estonian Institute of Economic Research showed that only 25 percent of Estonians supported their country's adoption of the euro. The Estonian Institute of Economic Research is owned by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the country's largest business association.

However, Estonia's government has chosen not to follow the democratic example of its Nordic neighbours Denmark and Sweden, who allowed their citizens to have a free and open vote and the final say on whether or not to join the euro.

Instead, the Estonian government is following the example of those less democratic states in Europe that neglect the political will of the people and refuse to let them have a say on their own future destiny. The tragedy is that the Estonian government is allowing itself to be used as a propaganda stunt to give credibility to the euro.

Eager to show that they fulfil the EU Monetary Union (EMU) demands, Tallinn announced it has managed to achieve the lowest level of public debt in the EU. This may sound like a fine result, but the consequences for the Estonian population are severe: The unemployment rate is over 16 percent, the welfare system is very limited and now Estonia has to support richer euro-countries with a higher debt even if they have lower unemployment than Estonia.

One cannot blame the EMU for the Estonian government's policy, but neither is the eurozone focusing on employment and welfare. Seen from a Scandinavian point of view, this seems like a narrow-minded understanding of how the economy and society work. People who are without a job for a long time lose self-confidence and it will be a big challenge to get them back into the labour market later. In low welfare societies, people are also afraid of taking chances and going after the job that motivates them. Instead, they may prefer to stay in jobs they do not like because they are afraid of becoming unemployed.

The euro seems to be a poverty trap where countries with big economic differences are getting together and where the only way to make it work economically is if there is to be more central control and the establishment of a common fiscal policy. A common fiscal policy will mean that EU is becoming almost like a super-state and that is something very few Europeans dream about.

Ordinary citizens who might have thought that the euro was about avoiding the need to change money when travelling abroad will suddenly be faced with questions about common taxes, common economic priorities and the establishment of a de facto United States of Europe.

The worst problem in all this is that the EMU is not built on the democratic support of the people.

Only two EU countries have had specific referendums on the euro - Denmark and Sweden – and in both countries people rejected the euro in polls with high voter turnouts and after intensive debates.

The voice of the people is a fundamental element of true democracy. In Estonia and other euro countries the voice of the people was not heard. In the long run this might turn out to be a much bigger problem than the current economic crisis.

Lave K. Broch is a campaign co-ordinator for the People's Movement against the EU in Denmark and a board member in the umbrella organisations TEAM and the EU-democrats