Europe

Lithuania 'ready to join euro' in 2015 - EU Commission

Euros Image copyright Reuters

Lithuania is set to adopt the euro on 1 January 2015, after the European Commission said it had met the criteria for joining the single currency.

It will become the 19th member of the eurozone out of 28 countries in the European Union, and the last of the Baltic states to join.

The Commission, in its report, said a formal decision would be made by EU governments next month.

The UK and Denmark are the only EU states with opt-outs from the euro.

All other countries are expected to join. Estonia was the first Baltic state to become a member of the eurozone in 2011, followed by Latvia on 1 January 2014.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Grybauskaite met President Obama in Poland on Wednesday

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, on a visit to Poland, welcomed the decision: "We'll be in the club of the strongest, we'll be able to take part in the decisions ourselves - currently we are on the other side of the door."

Looking forward to dropping the existing currency, the lita, Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said joining the euro also gave Lithuania added security in the face of the Ukrainian crisis.

Prospective members have to meet "convergence criteria", which are also assessed by the European Central Bank (ECB), requiring

  • Sound government finances - government deficit no higher than 3% of GDP
  • Sustainable public finances - government debt no greater than 60% of GDP
  • Price stability
  • Low inflation

In its assessment, the ECB warned that keeping inflation low in Lithuania "will be challenging in the medium term". Lithuania tried to join the euro earlier but was badly affected by the financial crisis.

However, EU Economics Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn praised the economic reforms adopted by the government in Vilnius.

"That reform momentum, driven in part by Lithuania's EU accession 10 years ago, has led to a striking increase in Lithuanians' prosperity," he said in a statement.

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