Lithuania submits request for euro, Almunia expresses doubts about eligibility

  • 2006-03-22
  • From wire reports
VILNIUS - Financial officials announced last week that they have signed an assessment request for joining the eurozone and dispatched it to the European Commission and European Central Bank.

The request was reportedly signed by Finance Minister Zigmantas Balcytis and Bank of Lithuania Governor Reinoldijus Sarkinas.
The assessment is required in order to become a member of the eurozone on Jan. 1, 2007. Both the European Central Bank and the commission are expected to publish their reports on candidate countries this spring so that the Council of the European Union could make a final decision in June.

However, inflation in Lithuania has been running high as of late, and already there have been suggestions by high placed officials in the EU that the Baltic state may have to postpone phasing in the common currency.
Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia again expressed his doubts about Lithuania's preparedness to join the eurozone, which all new EU countries must do eventually. "Before they submit a request, it's better to assess their likelihood of getting a positive response," the Reuters news agency quoted Almunia as saying last week. "The commission is not going to give any political assessments."

In addition to Lithuania, Estonia and Slovenia have been aiming to become the first new members to adopt the euro, though considering that inflation in Estonia is even higher than in Lithuania, it is possible only Slovenia will see the euro next January.
Lithuania's average annual inflation was 2.7 percent in February, according to data from Eurostat, the EU statistical office. The Maastricht reference value for the same period, based on Eurostat data, was 2.63 percent. The Baltic state meets other criteria, including debt and deficit ratios.
Sarkinas is holding out hope, saying he believes that Lithuania's chances are "good." He said ECB and EC representatives would come to Lithuania to get acquainted with the country's situation and economic indicators. "We will receive a report, and then we will see," he said.
Balcytis said he thinks that the country's inflation is close to the Maastricht criterion.