Lithuania set to join eurozone

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Brussels - Lithuania was expected Wednesday to get the final stamp of approval on its plans to join the eurozone on January 1, setting it up to become the 19th member of the currency bloc.

EU leaders, finance ministers, its central bank, executive body and the European Parliament have all given their blessings to the accession.

The bloc's European affairs ministers on Wednesday will consider giving the final green light and setting the conversion rate that will be used to replace Lithuania's currency, the lita.

“I believe we deserve to have this decision,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said as he arrived for the ministers' talks in Brussels.

“We will be a reliable member of the eurozone,” he said.

“The euro is not just a coin or piece of metal; for us, it's belonging to the right club.”

Lithuania will be the last Baltic country to adopt the European currency after Estonia did so in 2011 and Latvia followed suit this year.

Lithuania first sought to adopt the euro in 2006 but failed to achieve the required price stability at the time.

All EU countries except Britain and Denmark are mandated to join the eurozone once they fulfil its economic criteria, but the prospect proved less attractive during the financial crisis that has plagued the currency bloc over the past few years.

The eurozone finally managed to pull out of recession last year but is still struggling with sluggish growth and high unemployment.

“Lithuania's accession means that yet it moves and yet it works,” Italian Secretary of State Sandro Gozi said as he arrived for Wednesday's meeting.

He was to chair the meeting because his country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

The countries still in line to adopt the euro are Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden. - Sapa-dpa



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