Europe's hopes of achieving a common currency have been dealt another blow by Germany's opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader, Rudolf Scharping. Scharping has called on Chancellor Helmut Kohl to delay introducing the "Euro" until after 2000. The about-face is designed to push a hot button with German voters, who are increasingly reluctant to sacrifice the strong German mark, a potent symbol of nationhood, especially in eastern Germany. But financial analysts fear that delaying monetary union could abort the project altogether.
The main surprise is Scharping's timing. Observers figured that he would wait until nearer the 1998 Bundestag elections to raise one of the few issues on which he is closer to the electorate than Kohl. But after the SPD fared poorly in Oct. 22 elections in Berlin, Scharping has to shore up his position now against the populist Prime Minister of Lower Saxony, Gerhard Schruder, who is also making the mark an issue.