'Euro' Nations Formally Proposed

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BRUSSELS: The Euro is real, and it arrives in eight months and six days. The European Union took a giant leap forward Wednesday by officially recommending 11 nations to be included in the new currency next January: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. "We are at the end of an historic process," said EU president Jacques Santer.

Or are they? Britain, Denmark and Sweden have chosen to remain outside the Euro club, while Greece was excluded because of its massive deficit. Even within the chosen 11, some poor performers could drag down the currency: Italy, for example, has a debt greater than 120 percent of GDP. More immediately, the EU has to resolve, by May 2, the touchy question of who should head up the new European Central Bank in Frankfurt. “There’s a political battle between the French and the Germans right now over who will be named president of the central bank,” says TIME Brussels bureau chief James Graff. And skepticism about the wisdom of surrendering fiscal sovereignty endures throughout Europe. At least the coins look pretty.