SLOVENIA: Slovenians Celebrate Euro
16.01.2007 Business | Politics | SE Countries in EU | Slovenia
Slovenians celebrate the successful changeover to Euro.
The event falls on the 15th anniversary of the former Yugoslav country's independence. The celebration will gather senior EU officials, including European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country holds the EU presidency.
The head of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet commended Slovenia for its "exemplary" smooth changeover to the euro in just two weeks and urged the nations that use the common currency to ensure the free movement of workers from one country to another.
Slovenia's "successful" changeover to the euro is "clearly a sign that economic developments can happen very fast if a country is determined to make rapid progress." Trichet said.
The country of 2 mln introduced the euro on Jan. 1, becoming the 13th nation to use the common currency — and the only one of the 10 countries that joined the bloc two years ago that satisfied the economic criteria needed to join the euro so far.
The EU's economics commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, said Slovenia's switch to the euro "forges a path" for other EU newcomers to follow suit so that "the borders of the euro area (would) gradually converge with" those of the 27-nation EU.
The Slovene tolar was in use alongside the euro for only 14 days. Beginning Monday, the euro is the only legal currency and a huge banner on the Central Bank building in downtown Ljubljana declares: "Euro — our currency."
Slovenia's Central Bank governor, Mitja Gaspari, said 90 percent of all tolars have already been deposited with the banks and withdrawn from circulation. No notable problems were recorded, despite fears of massive price hikes.
Slovenia swiftly turned to a market economy after gaining independence from communist Yugoslavia. It now has a 1.9 percent inflation — about the EU average — and its 4 percent economic growth exceeds the EU average.
The country also has a Western-style democracy and takes over the EU's rotating presidency on Jan. 1 2008.