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Brussels, 16 November 1998

The easy euro - pilot projects with the disadvantaged, old and visually-impaired people

For the first time the European Commission submitted its pilot projects « easy Euro ». In collaboration with persons concerned, these projects aim, to evaluate specific difficulties which may arise for three target groups at the time of transition to the Euro: the elderly, the socio/economically disadvantaged and the blind/persons with impaired vision. Twenty Working Parties, each composed of 15 of these persons were set up in France, Belgium and Italy. Their aim is to create between now and mid-1999 a source of information and training on the euro, based on their own experiences and work, adapted to their needs, practices and their methods of expression and of communication. Once established, this resource will be made available to all, by the Commission.

« The pilot projects constitute a step towards a positive discrimination policy aiming to prevent the euro being perceived as a "currency for the rich" or through the difficulties of adaptation by certain people not increase exclusion. We wish the euro to be a federative project, which all the European citizens, without exception, could appropriate». This is the message that Emma Bonino, European Commissioner for the consumer policy transmitted to 50 representatives of the Working Parties at this meeting in Naples and which the Member of the European Parliament, Aldo Arroni, rapporteur on the information on euro Policy, repeated. The mayor of Naples, Minister for Labour Antonio Bassolino who hosted these meetings also emphasised this. The representatives of the Working Parties will delibarate on the conclusions of their work, untill 18 November.

These pilot projects arise from the observation that, within the framework of the scenario of the transition to the the euro, close attention must be paid to certain categories of the population (persons in difficult economic circumstances, the illiterate, blind and elderly people and those visually-impaired, the deaf and hard of hearing, those in areas of geographical or social isolation etc). Indeed, for a number of reasons, a large percentage of these social groups is unlikely to be touched by the traditional media or to encounter individual difficulties. According to THE OECD(1) , more than a quarter of the European population has reading problems and simple text comprehension concerning subjects of current life. According to the N° Eurobarometer 47, 29% of the European population, have never made payments in « foreign currency ». Thus, studies undertaken for DG XXIV, show that approximately 30% of the European population may have problems of comprehension and of adaptation, if nothing is done specifically for them.

For these persons, general public euro information concerning paper medium is not appropriate. A suitable preparation of the euro must be set up from 1999, in order to let them become accustomed simultaneously to new methods of payment, to the new prices and value scales in euro by the year 2002. Such as a bad evaluation of prices can lead to over consumption, even an under evaluation of incomes can lead to under consumption. In addition, according to the group of experts, the introduction of the euro, must be accompanied by appropriate policies based on positive discrimination's principles, in order not to increase existing " social fractures " as well as resentment towards the process of European integration.

Projects are organised and are part-financed by the Directorate-General for Consumers of the European Commission with an amount of ECU 200 000 for people in economic/social difficulty and the elderly, and of ECU 200 000 for the blind and visually impaired. Professional associations, particularly those sensitive to these problems (Confcommercio, the Italian tradesmen's association, the INDICOD and the ILEC, Institute of connection and of Studies of the Consumer Industries) contribute ECU 100 000 to these projects. The co-ordination of work and co-ordination of groups is ensured by associations specialised in training and public information, such as: the European Institute for Inter regional consumption (IEIC, Lille), the regional Council for Consumers of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, the Office Stéphanois for the elderly, the School of Europe of Saint-Alban, in France; the International Association « 50&piú », the Movimento Federativo Democratico, in Italy, the Movement for the exchange of reciprocal Knowledge, the Sheaf - ASBL, the KBG (pensioners' Christian Movement), in Belgium, or the International Movement DTA Fourth World (Assistance to persons Distress).

The originality of these projects arises from the fact that the training and information resources intended for « confidence Mediators », i.e., professionals who are in direct and physical liaison with target groups, are carried out under the leadership of the people concerned. That is to say, according to their analysis grid, their perception of the things, their concepts, their culture and their language will be in a position to explain to others the issues regarding the transition to the euro. Thus the Italian Federation of Family practitioners (FIMMG) and of pharmacists (FEDERFARMA) follow pilot schemes and have committed themselves to using the result. Similarly, the Veneto Region (Italy) and the Ixelles commune (Belgium), which have already set up projects on the euro intended for their population, will attempt to help persons in difficulty and to train their personnel in order to meet needs.

Created in May 1998, the work of the groups proceeds in two phases: to locate the problems, people on targets questionings (May 1998-janvier 99) then, the design of training and information resources intended for « confidence mediators » (February 1999-juin 99). Once these resources are designed and tested, they will be placed at the disposal of all by the Commission. Until now, each group has worked autonomously, on basic concepts (property, exchange value, value scales, price fixing, intermediation of the currency, monetary creation). The aim of the Naples meetings is to confront the work of the 20 groups, then to simulate the use of different currencies to tackle the problem of the exchange rates.

Work will be followed by representatives by the « euro », Belgian missions, French and Italian.

(1)Study "littératie and company of knowledge" - OECD 1997

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