June 20, 1997

Edited by Douglas Harbrecht


Europe certainly has its share of worrywarts, troubled by recent economic and political rumblings on the Continent. Then there's German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. An upbeat Kohl went before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations on June 19, waving his arms and declaring: "The European train" toward financial and political union "is firmly on track."

Kohl made his remarks on his way to the Group of Seven summit in Denver from a European Union meeting in Amsterdam. He admitted that the leftward drift in recent elections in Britain and France, together with efforts to postpone the 1999 adoption of a single currency, may force the EU train into "a possible detour." But, he insisted, "you shouldn't think that a development so dramatic and broad-based can be changed by one election."

Kohl urged other European leaders to fully embrace the euro, a new common currency. He turned aside suggestions that tough monetary policies, aimed at shrinking budget deficits ahead of adoption of the euro, might aggravate already-high European unemployment. The moves toward the euro will "reinvigorate" trade and commerce, Kohl claimed. "What is the alternative?" he asked.

"Wall Street doesn't have a lot of enthusiasm" for the euro, Kohl conceded. But that's because "there will be more deals in euros than dollars," the beefy German President retorted. And all the handwringing will be forgotten in a couple of years, he said. "The euro will come. I am absolutely certain. How many countries will be part, I am not able to say."

By Rick Melcher in Chicago

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