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Lithuania bids farewell to the lita, prepares to join the euro zone

  • 2014-12-03

VILNIUS - Lithuania bids farewell to the Lita on December 31 this year, and a few Lithuanian volunteers have even built the largest pyramid of coins in the world to say a worthy adieu to their national currency.
For on January 1 2015 Lithuania will join the euro zone. Though many of the adjustments have already been made by businesses and operating systems alike over the past several months in preparation, the crucial moment will come when the country’s residents will be provided with opportunities to exchange their currency: apart from the ATM network, it is projected that about 40 commercial bank branches will operate in all counties as well as the cash offices of the Bank of Lithuania - in Vilnius and Kaunas, according to Lithuania’s central bank.

“Usually bank branches do not work on Jan. 1. However, we have agreed with banks that, after the adoption of the euro on the first day of the next year, conditions will be created to exchange currency in all county centres. Al least one bank branch will operate there. Beside usual work on 2 January, many more bank branches will operate on the first weekend of the New Year than usual,” says Vitas Vasiliauskas, Chairman of the Board of the Bank of Lithuania, in an official statement on the Bank’s website.

Longer working hours of bank customer service divisions are also projected on Jan. 1. ATMs will be supplied with low-denomination banknotes as a way to counter the potential problem of queues outside cash machines.
“Residents, in seeking to change over to the euro as smoothly as possible, should take notice of a few things. First - all matters at bank branches, including those related to payments, should be handled as soon as possible, as on the last day of this year they will operate shorter. Until the euro adoption it is most convenient to hold litas in accounts, while should you have litas cash after the euro adoption, where not necessary, it is not worth rushing to exchange it on the first days due to likely queues. Residents will be able to exchange it at banks and post offices free of charge long after the euro adoption and at the Bank of Lithuania - for unlimited time. And, of course, residents should beware of swindlers proposing to exchange currency in the street or at home,” says Vasiliauskas.

Some residents have expressed concerns over the past year that the introduction of the euro in Lithuania will result in a stealth price rise. But analysts from Svedbank believe there will not be a large difference in consumer pricing in the months after the transition to the euro.

Other Lithuanians have expressed nostalgia at losing a pertinent national symbol. But others argue that the new euro coins issued to Lithuania, which arrived in Lithuania under armed guard on Nov. 17, will have Lithuanian symbols as well. And in any case, a number of people told the Baltic Times that they would an international currency like the euro than a volatile national currency like the Ukrainian Hryvnia or the Russian Rouble.