21st Nov 2017

Slovenia begins euro entry countdown

  • Slovenia: out with the tolar, in with the euro (Photo: European Commission)

Slovenian euro coin production has begun as the EU finance ministers on Tuesday (11 July) gave a final formal go-ahead for the country's entry to the 12-member eurozone as of January 2007.

The Slovenian central bank must distribute 155 million euro coins and 42 million bank notes by the beginning of the next year.

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The new coins with Slovenian images are being made in Finland's mint, with Estonia planning to do the same down the line as neither of the countries have their own national mints.

Finnish finance minister Eero Heinaluoma - heading the meeting on behalf of the new EU six-month presidency - joked "Not every country that orders Finnish mint will be accepted to the euro."

Slovenia is the very first of ten member states which joined the bloc in 2004 to enter the single currency. The euro will be the country's fourth currency since becoming independent in 1991.

"It is the last step of our national project which we view as our home coming to Europe," Slovenian finance minister Andrej Bajuk told journalists after the meeting.

He argued the entry is not only in line with the legal obligations of the country after it joined the EU, but also in accordance with the views of its citizens.

Slovenians are the most enthusiastic supporters of the euro among the newcomers, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey.

The euro coins and notes will only be circulating alongside the Slovenian tolar for the first two weeks of the changeover - which was set to be exchanged for 239.64 Slovene tolars per euro.

Slovenian officials pointed out they are aware of risks of price hikes after the euro introduction - as they have been warned by the other colleagues from the current eurozone countries.

They also acknowledge that Slovenia is still at the bottom of the old EU wage list - with around 80 percent of the EU's average - but performs well in comparison with some of the poorer western states, such as Portugal, or to the other countries from the ex-communist bloc.

One instead of three

Ljubljana was originally supposed to be joined by Estonia and Lithuania at Tuesday's celebrations and January 2007 euro-zone entry.

But the two Baltic states had to change their plans due to poor performance in price stability - one of the key economic criteria underpinning the euro, along with public debt, budget deficit and interest rates.

Tallinn withdrew its request earlier this year but Vilnius insisted in its preparedness to join - and eventually received a red light from the European Commission, despite a minimum difference to the required inflation rate.

The move by Brussels was received with anger in Lithuania, with its authorities sparking a debate about a possible review of the euro entry criteria calculation.

But the Slovenian finance minister Andrej Bajuk says he is sceptical this change of the rules can be achieved "in the middle of the game."

"We tried to open the debate about these criteria at the very beginning of our journey to prepare for entering the euro but nobody was willing to proceed with it," the minister told EUobserver.

"So we just accepted it and prepared in the way that we knew would be required - and that's what our colleagues in the other member states should probably also do," he added.

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