On January 1st Latvia, a former Soviet republic and the European Union’s fastest-growing economy, became the 18th member of the Eurozone.
The euro was born in on January 1st exactly 15 years ago. The Eurozone includes 18 European Union member states and 333 million people who share the same currency.
Entering the Eurozone is a controversial subject in Latvia, with some wondering whether joining a currency club riddled with countries in economic crises was such a good idea, and others relieved at this significant step away from dependency on Russia.
José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, said:
“I am delighted to welcome Latvia as the eighteenth member of the euro area. This is a major event, not only for Latvia, but for the euro area itself, which remains stable, attractive and open to new members. For Latvia, it is the result of impressive efforts and the unwavering determination of the authorities and the Latvian people.”
“Thanks to these efforts, undertaken in the aftermath of a deep economic crisis, Latvia will enter the euro area stronger than ever, sending an encouraging message to other countries undergoing a difficult economic adjustment. On behalf of the European Commission and myself, I offer my sincere congratulations to Latvia and best wishes for the future.”
Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, Olli Rehn, said:
“I want to very warmly welcome Latvia to the euro. Your efforts have paid off and your country’s strong economic recovery offers a clear message of encouragement to other European countries undergoing a difficult economic adjustment. Joining the euro marks the completion of Latvia’s journey back to the political and economic heart of our continent, and that is something for all of us to celebrate.”
The euro will gradually replace the lat
As from today, the euro will gradually replace Latvia’s currency, the lat. For a period of two weeks the two currencies will coexist. As consumers pay for goods and services in lats they will be given change in euros.
The European Commission says Latvian commercial banks have received euro coins and banknotes from the Bank of Latvia and the Latvian Central bank. Shops and other businesses have been supplied with euros from their banks.
Since December 10th, Latvian authorities have given out 800,000 starter kits with euro coins. Retailers have been offered 70,000 dedicated starter kits.
As of today, the Bank of Latvia will exchange unlimited amounts of lats for euros at €1 per 0.702804 LVL (lats) free of charge and for an unlimited period. Commercial banks and post offices will also offer the same service free of charge until June 30th and March 31st respectively.