Latvia formally submits single currency application

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The finance minister of Latvia, Andris Vilks, has made his country's formal application to become the 18th member of the eurozone, at a session with Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn.

Speaking at the European Commission on 5 March 2013, Mr Vilks said that Latvian membership of the eurozone could benefit the rest of the euro-area.

"A new, fiscally prudent country with huge experience in the previous crisis, which has learned a lot of lessons could be a very strong value-added for the eurozone," he claimed.

Despite being the first EU country to ask for assistance from the EU and the International Monetary Fund in 2009, Latvia now has the EU's highest GDP growth rate and second-highest export rate.

Commissioner Rehn welcomed Latvia's application, saying it showed "how much progress has been made to get [Latvia's] application back on track after the 2008-9 crisis".

The next stage of eurozone application involves the Commission drafting a report in May or June assessing whether Latvia is in a state to join.

The Council of Ministers will then take a formal decision after consulting with the European Central Bank, and on a qualified majority of eurozone ministers.

If approval is granted as planned, Latvia is expected to join the single currency at the start of 2014.

The Commission hearing came a week after Mr Vilk and the country's central banker appeared before the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee to put the case for Latvian membership of the euro.

Latvia says it has met the five requirements needed to gain entry into the eurozone, which relate to levels of debt, deficit, inflation, long-term interest rates and having a stable peg to the euro

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