VILNIUS - The European Parliament is reportedly preparing to express a stern opinion about whether new EU member states meet the relevant criteria for joining the eurozone. The business daily Verslo Zinios reported last week that a majority of MEPs were likely to form a "no exceptions" opinion about meeting the Maastricht criteria in the form of a draft resolution. Lithuanian deputies have proposed a number of amendments to a draft since, as they believe, the document could be unfavorable to the Baltic state.
According to the report, the draft mentions Slovenia as the only country meeting the criteria. It also calls on the European Commission to check the reliability of statistical data and "give priority to the long-term stability of the eurozone over expansion." The European Parliament is scheduled to discuss the document on May 16, the day when the European Commission and European Central Bank are expected to give their opinion on whether Lithuania should become a member of the eurozone. Lithuania is still clinging to hopes that it will be able to introduce the common currency as of Jan. 1, 2007. However, the rise in the country's consumer price index has undermined the country's plans, though Lithuanian leaders still maintain that they meet the inflation criterion.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Zigmantas Balcytis denied that the government made any wrong moves in its drive to prevent inflation-related problems. In his opinion, the rise in administered prices is "an absolutely normal phenomenon." Balcytis told Lithuania's Parliament that the prices increased "so as to comply with economic logic and prevent any violation of competition regulations." He noted that a 0.9 percentage point rise in inflation, which resulted on the growth of administered prices, was a regular phenomenon in a normal economy. He added that an additional 1 percent rise in inflation owing to the surge in crude prices was "absolutely normal" as well. Analysts and representatives of the Bank of Lithuania have said that the growth of administered prices is the key obstacle for Lithuania's accession to the eurozone.