RIGA - The Baltic states must set their own terms for adopting the euro, European Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget Dalia Gribauskaite reiterated during the conference "Banking and Finance in the Baltics 2006" on Oct. 23. "The European Commission will not speculate and dictate any terms for the adoption of the euro, only the member countries themselves can set the terms according to their stage of readiness," Gribauskaite said.
She added that the European Commission was not allowed to dictate when EU member countries should join the eurozone, noting that before accession, a country needs to fulfill several criteria and that the European Commission can only offer recommendations.
Gribauskaite also said that euro adoption should not be the Baltic states' main goal, pointing out that the process alone will help secure long-term development in the region.
Asked about the possibility of all three Baltic states joining the eurozone simultaneously, she said the countries could coordinate the process, but the European Commission would assess each nation separately.
In his turn, Latvian Finance Minister Oskars Spurdzins said that simultaneous euro adoption would benefit the region. However, even if Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are all Baltic countries, they still differ on various macroeconomic issues. Adoption of the euro, he added, is possible only when all Maastricht criteria are met.
Latvia plans to adopt the European single currency in 2008, but the plan is threatened by high inflation. Upcoming gas and electricity tariff hikes have had analysts predicting high inflation next year and doubt that 2010 or even 2012 are realistic dates for euro adoption.
Latvia's neighbors, Estonia and Lithuania, hoped to make the transition in 2007, but in April Estonia announced that it wouldn't be ready for euro adoption until 2008. The European Commission, in its convergence report on Lithuania's readiness for the euro, indicated that the country was not yet ready to join the eurozone.