The New Year has swept out the old, and brought in the new – promises and hopes – to the Baltic States, but it brings special meaning to Latvia.
For those withdrawing cash this morning from cash machines throughout the country, it’s no longer the lats one receives, but euros. The long wait, and difficult work through the financial crisis, is over, as Latviahas become the newest member of the euro family.
Shortly after midnight, and just after the fireworks extravaganza lighting up Riga’s sky ended, Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, at a gathering at Citadele Bank in Riga’s Old Town, stood before the crowd and withdrew the first euro banknote – a 10 euro note - marking the special occasion.
Prime Minister of Estonia Andrus Ansip, Latvia’s Minister of Finance Andris Vilks and President of the Central Bank of Latvia Ilmars Rimsevics also withdrew euro banknotes.
Dombrovskis said that “Introduction of the single European currency will give our country a number of economic benefits. It will boost our economic growth, prosperity and raise our living standards. It will help us strengthen our national security and welfare… Our ‘Milda’ will now grace the coins of the second strongest currency in the world – the euro.”
Ansip was greeted by loud cheers upon giving his congratulatory comments – in Latvian.
At a press conference immediately following the ceremony, Dombrovskis said that bringing the euro to Latviawas one of the top three priorities of his administration. The other two were overcoming the crisis in Latviaand stabilizing the country's finances, and steering Latviatowards the path of growth.
No panic was to be seen on Jan. 1, as the transition from lats to euros has been well managed.