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2015.09.08 13:45

European leaders in Riga eye Lithuania’s 2015 eurozone entry

DELFI.lt 2015.09.08 13:45

  Leaders said this weekend in Riga they were optimistic that Lithuania will join the eurozone in 2015, completing the embrace of the European single currency by the Baltic countries, the Baltic Course reports with reference to the AFP news agency and LETA.

Leaders said this weekend in Riga they were optimistic that Lithuania will join the eurozone in 2015, completing the embrace of the European single currency by the Baltic countries, the Baltic Course reports with reference to the AFP news agency and LETA.

“I expect Lithuania to join already next year as the 19th member and completing the Baltic euro accession,” European Council President Herman van Rompuy said on Friday in Riga, Latvia, which became the eurozone’s 18th member as of the new year.

“I think not very far from now we will have all the three Baltic States members of the euro,” echoed European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, at a joint press conference in Riga.

An EU member since 2004, Latvia joined the eurozone on 1 January 2014 as the second former Soviet republic to do so, after neighbouring Estonia, which joined in 2011.

The lat will remain legal tender in Latvia until 14 January, after which only euros will be accepted.

The AFP points out that Latvia met key targets for the euro adoption focused on inflation, low deficits and debt by implementing a series of brutal austerity measures dubbed “internal devaluation” amid deep recession.

The austerity drive has been touted as an example to other countries by the European Union and International Monetary Fund, the AFP points out.

On Saturday, Lithuania’s Minister of Finance Rimantas Šadžius met with the Vice-President of the European Commission, Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, Olli Rehn. The EU Vice-President stated that Lithuania has a realistic opportunity to become a member of the eurozone.

“Lithuania accomplished a lot preparing for euro introduction. However, much work remains [in order to] to eliminate all obstacles for euro adoption in Lithuania, similarly to what Latvia successfully achieved. It is important not only to adopt the euro, but to make sure that this would bring substantial benefit in the future,” Šadžius said after the meeting with the commissioner.

According to the minister of finance the euro is not the goal in itself but rather a means, a prerequisite for successful economic development and better life for people in Lithuania.

The EC is closely monitoring Lithuania’s preparation and improvement seeking to meet the Maastricht criteria. The country’s development according to vice-president of the EC is obvious. Rehn, who supervised euro introduction in Latvia, says that his visit in Vilnius immediately after the visit in Riga demonstrates that Lithuania has a realistic possibility to become the next member of the eurozone. Rehn stressed the importance of fiscal discipline and the sustainability of public finance.

“2014 will be a year of significant decisions for Lithuania which is striving to join the 18 country union of single currency,” said Rehn.

Upon receiving official information from the Eurostat, the European Commission and the European Central Bank will announce about EU country convergence. This will most likely happen in April. After assessing the data, the European Commission will make a proposal on euro introduction in a country which meets the Maastricht criteria.

The proposal will be considered by the European Council, recommendations will also be submitted by the European Parliament. Later, in July, taking into account the recommendations, a decision on the country’s accession to the eurozone will be made by the EU Economic and Financial Affairs Council.

Lithuania is seeking to adopt the euro in 2015.