|Vol.7, No.33, 13.9.01, p24
A COALITION of business associations is mounting a last-ditch attempt to persuade the European Central Bank (ECB) and finance ministers to allow new euro notes to be supplied to the public ahead of the currency changeover.
The retailers' lobby Eurocommerce, backed by hotels' and restaurants' organisation HOTREC, branded goods group AIM and others, wants next week's informal meeting of eurozone ministers to reconsider 'front-loading' the bank notes to the public.
They fear some shops and service providers may have to carry 20 times more change than usual during the launch, with a slowdown effect on sales as customers pay for even the smallest purchases with high-denomination notes. "In security terms this is dangerous," said Eurocommerce's Carole Brigaudeau.
Front-loading notes to the public was ruled out last year when ministers agreed to support ECB President Wim Duisenberg's firm view that only coins should be allowed to circulate before the launch.
With Germany and the Nordic eurozone countries remaining opposed, the retailers are pinning their hopes on less-entrenched states such as Spain to align themselves with Belgian finance minister Didier Reynders and his French counterpart Laurent Fabius, who support the idea.
Without a change of heart from Duisenberg, a move towards front-loading seems unlikely. "But if Duisenberg opens even a small window to front-loading then we'll probably see a consensus for using it," said an EU diplomat.
There is growing frustration among retailers over the ECB's hard line. "Duisenberg is handling it like a marketing campaign for a new washing powder," said Brigaudeau. "He has a launch date and before that he doesn't want anyone to touch his product."
The eurogroup of finance ministers meets in Liège, Belgium, next Friday (21 September).
A coalition of business associations is mounting a last-ditch attempt to persuade the European Central Bank (ECB) and finance ministers to allow new euro notes and coins to be supplied to the public ahead of the currency changeover.
|Business and Industry, Economic and Financial Affairs