VILNIUS 's According to the Finance Ministry, on March 16 Lithuania submitted a formal request to the European Commission and the European Central Bank for an early assessment of its readiness to join the euro zone on Jan. 1, 2007.
The document was signed by Finance Minister Zigmantas Balcytis and Reinoldijus Sarkinas, the Bank of Lithuania governor the day before and sent off via diplomatic channels on Thursday.
"At the moment, we comply with all the criteria set out in the Maastricht Treaty for countries wishing to join the euro," Finance Minister said. "Public deficit and debt levels are among the lowest in the EU countries and significantly below the reference value set in the treaty," he added.
Balcytis also added that inflation was close to the Maastricht criterion and that recent changes in inflation had been primarily due to external factors, such as a sudden rise in energy prices and a one-off increase in food product prices.
According to data from the EU statistical office Eurostat, the country's average 12-month inflation, measured by the harmonized index of consumer prices (HICP) in February was about 2.7 percent.