EU leaders endorse Slovakia’s entry into the euro

June 20th, 2008 - 3:01 am ICT by IANS  

Brussels, June 20 (DPA) European Union leaders Thursday backed Slovakia’s bid to become the 16th country to join the euro, giving their nod to one of eastern Europe’s economic success stories. “Leaders endorse Slovakia’s accession to the euro-zone on Jan 1,” a statement from the Slovenian presidency of the EU said.

The endorsement during an EU summit came at a ceremony attended by European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet.

EU finance ministers agreed to accept Slovakia at a June 3 meeting after acknowledging that the country had fulfilled the criteria for joining the single currency. These include keeping its budget deficit and inflation rate within limits.

Finance ministers were expected to formalize their decision in July, allowing Slovakia to become the first former Warsaw Pact nation to switch to the euro.

Slovakia’s move toward the eurozone is “a great success,” Prime Minister Robert Fico told reporters in Brussels Thursday.

However, analysts say that rising inflation across the EU makes it unlikely that any other members will join Slovakia in the single currency in the immediate future.

Fico said he assured European leaders that Slovakia will not see rising prices after joining the eurozone, but was ready to battle inflation if needed.

“We will do our best to have a balanced budget in 2011 because that is the best way to fight inflation,” the CTK news agency quoted him as saying.

He defended his government’s push for the strongest possible conversion rate from the Slovak koruna to the euro at the July 8 EU finance ministers’ meeting.

“A strong conversion rate is good for people and their savings,” Fico said.

The single currency, which was first coined in 2002, is currently used in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Finland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria and the Netherlands.

All of the EU’s 27 members except Britain and Denmark have pledged to join the currency as soon as they have met the conditions. Sweden does not have an opt-out clause but is reluctant to join.

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