"If you possess the humility of not knowing everything, but the ambition of doing a good job, I do not believe that it is essential to belong to all the common structures - NATO, Schengen, the EMU - and I believe that we can offer a new type of Presidency." It was with these words that Goran Persson officially kicked off this six-month Presidency of the EU Council of Ministers. He has taken over the baton from the French with the firm conviction that it is an opportunity for his minority Government, which has a fragile coalition in the Riksdag, the Parliament where its survival is dependent upon the extreme left and the Greens - two Euro-sceptic parties - to anchor the kingdom into the European fold. Emboldened by the role which Presidency confers on him, - on 8 January, he met German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder in Hanover; on 9 January, received Romano Prodi and the other Members of the European Commission; on 10 January, received NATO Secretary-General George Robertson - Mr Persson intends to demonstrate to his people that Sweden occupies an important place in the European Union. The Prime Minister did not hide his enthusiasm when he said: "I hope that the Swedes will regain confidence in themselves; they are proud that Sweden occupies the Presidency, proud of having that responsibility and we want to shoulder our share of the work."The Swedish Government also wants to bring Europe and its citizens closer together. As Deputy Prime Minister Lena Hjelm-Wallen explained, "If we are going to hold dozens of meetings, seminars and working groups in twenty-odd cities and towns throughout the country over a period of six months, it is to show the people that Europe is not mysterious and far from them but can be close to them". From this standpoint and for the future, Mr Persson did not hide his disappointment with plans for all European Council meetings to eventually be held in Brussels, as called for by a declaration annexed to the Treaty of Nice. According to the Prime Minister, "a formula will have to be found which makes it possible to maintain the link between the European Council and the countries of the Union".Referendum on the Euro.Goran Persson readily concedes, "I know that we are viewed very negatively, and it is true that support for Europe is weak in Sweden. Nevertheless, I am certain that if the referendum on accession were to be held again, the affirmative votes would carry the day. It is, however, another referendum which the Prime Minister today has his eye on: the one he will hold on the Euro. According to Mr Persson, "the decision to join the EMU has already been taken; the only question remaining is when". Sweden already meets the macro-economic "convergence" criteria but has not yet amended its legislation to make its central bank independent, nor joined EMS II. The key year in the process should be 2002. It is in January of that year that the committee of experts recently named to formulate the conditions for integrating the Swedish Krona into the single currency club will submit its report and in September the next legislative elections will be held. Between the two dates, a debate will take place with a view to holding a referendum, probably in 2003. In the event of success, Sweden will join EMS II for a two-year preparatory phase before full and complete participation in the Euro. For Mr Persson, the topics of the future campaign are in any event already...

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