STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Swedes overwhelmingly rejected the euro yesterday in a referendum that was clouded by last week's killing of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, a leading proponent of the European common currency.
Lindh, one of the country's most popular politicians, was stabbed by an unknown assailant Wednesday while shopping in a downtown Stockholm department store. Although opinion polls taken before the incident showed the euro going down to defeat, the national trauma of her death appeared to give last-minute impetus to the "yes" campaign.
But it was not enough to overcome Swedes' deep-seated skepticism of the euro. The vote was 56 percent against and 42 percent in favor, with 2 percent casting blank ballots.
Sweden's rejection of the euro is a major blow to the European common currency and to the European Union. It comes as the 15-member union is struggling with the integration of 10 new members next year while trying to ratify a strong federal constitution.
Sweden's resounding "no" almost certainly means that Britain will put off indefinitely its promised referendum on the euro and that Sweden's neighbor Denmark, the only other euro holdout, will not be joining the currency union soon.
* * * *
David Carr: Quite aside from all the furore and recriminations that are bound to follow, I wonder if this could be the catalyst which leads to the unravelling of the whole project. It isn't very likely but neither is it altogether impossible. In fact, I quite like the idea of a 'Euro-Watch' sweepstake: who will be the first to bail out of the Euro?
For the record, my money (sterling!) is on the French. The Germans will stick with it because they have always had an emotional investment in the European project. It enables them to be 'Europeans' and thus serves to expiate their guilt about being German. They will endure a lot more economic pain before they begin to think the unthinkable.
But not the French. For them, the EU has always been about advancing their national interests. All the kumbaya mummery about a united Europe is just window-dressing to disguise the self-serving reality. If it looks like wrecking their economy (or, more particularly, it begins biting into the privileges of the political class) the French will simply dump the Euro and swan off to look for another boondoggle.
Just a question. Whether it's Russia, Iraq, China, or Vietnam, why are we surprised that countries with no democratic and pluralistic conditions in their history have a hell of a time being democratic in our tradition?