Eurozone: ECB says no countries ready to join

Euro sculpture outside the ECB Of the 10 EU countries not in the eurozone, only the UK and Denmark have opt-outs from joining the euro

The European Central Bank (ECB) has said that none of the eight countries that are supposed to join the euro are ready yet.

The verdict comes amid growing fears over the future of the currency itself amid the worst crisis it has faced.

It said Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden are not yet ready to join the 17 nations that use the euro.

The ECB is obliged to report on their progress at least once every two years.

Of the 10 countries in the European Union that are not in the eurozone, only the UK and Denmark have opt-outs from joining the currency. The rest are supposed to join at some point.

The ECB assesses its convergence criteria based on inflation, deficits, exchange rates, long-term interest rates and legal compliance with the eurosystem of central banks.

"In none of the eight countries examined, the legal framework is fully compatible with all requirements for the adoption of the euro," the ECB said.

Criteria met?

However, in some of the criteria, the eight countries are doing better than the countries already in the euro.

For example, all the countries under review in 2011 had a debt-to-GDP ratio below the 60% eurozone limit, apart from Hungary.

Inside the euro currently, Greece's debt-to-GDP ratio last year was 165.3% last year whereas Italy, Ireland and Portugal were all above 100%.

All those countries - except for Italy - have been bailed out by the EU and IMF.

Ireland was also excluded from a comparison measure because its government bonds "are currently not an appropriate benchmark for assessing progress towards economic convergence, given the high country-specific risk premia prevailing in financial markets".

With elections due in Greece and and an ailing banking sector in Spain, many are worried that Greece will be forced to leave the euro and Spain will need an enormous bailout.

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