Brussels Hails Latvia's Smooth, Successful Switch to Euro
The European Commission has reported a "smooth and successful" changeover from the lats to the euro in Latvia.
Since Wednesday, it has no longer been possible to make payments in Latvian lats, the two-week dual circulation period having ended on 14 January. No major problems were encountered and banks, post offices and retailers coped well with the extra workload caused by the changeover process and the parallel handling of two currencies, the Commission said on Thursday.
The amount of euro cash in circulation exceeded the amount of circulating lats cash (value in euro) on 10 January.
According to a Commission survey, on Wednesday, more than nine out of ten citizens made cash payments in shops in euro only. All customers were getting their change in euro. Nearly three out of four citizens polled said they carry only euro cash in their wallets.
Lats banknotes and coins can be exchanged at the official conversion rate (1 EUR = 0.702804 LVL) and free of charge at post offices until March 31, and at commercial banks until June 30.
Thereafter, lats can be exchanged for euros without a service fee at the Bank of Latvia for an unlimited period of time.
Dual display of prices in euro and lats will continue until June 30, the Commission said.
On the first day of the new year Latvia became the eighteenth country to adopt the single currency, three years after another Baltic state – Estonia – joined the eurozone.
Acting Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis withdrew the first euro note from a bank machine in a ceremony in Riga after Latvian TV showed pre-recorded greetings from European leaders welcoming his country to the eurozone.
"It's a big opportunity for Latvia's economic development becoming a member of the world's second biggest currency," Dombrovskis said.
"Joining the euro marks the completion of Latvia's journey back to the political and economic heart of our continent, and that is something for all of us to celebrate," said Olli Rehn, the EU commissioner in charge of economic and monetary affairs.
Estonia joined the eurozone in 2011 and Lithuania aims to become a member in 2015.
Latvians however remain sharply divided in their sentiments about adopting the euro, many viewing giving up the lat as loss of independence.
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