Slovakia now ready for euro, leaders say

Other News Materials 21 April 2008 22:21 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Slovakia has met the criteria for adopting the euro on January 1, and European authorities have no economic reason to halt the plan, Prime Minister Robert Fico said Monday.

Fico's bullish remarks came after European Union data last week showed Slovakia's 12-month average inflation rate and government deficit within targets to join the euro.

The European Commission - the EU's executive arm - and the European Central Bank (ECB) are expected to rule May 7 on Slovakia's application to become the eurozone's 16th nation and its second ex- communist member.

" Slovakia in 2008 met all the Maastricht criteria that are necessary for adopting the euro by January 1, 2009," Fico said at a news conference Monday.

The only remaining question for the European Commission and the ECB is whether they believe Slovakia can keep inflation within eurozone limits if it joins the currency bloc, Fico said.

"If anyone today ponders that Slovakia should not have the euro, it is a political deliberation, not a financial, economic one," he said without elaborating.

Slovakia is one of Eastern Europe's economic powerhouses, fuelled by low-tax policies and a booming auto industry.

Finance Minister Jan Pociatek, appearing alongside Fico, said he saw no political hurdles and was optimistic that European authorities would approve Slovakia's bid and its timetable for introducing the joint currency.

In remarks seemingly aimed in part at a domestic audience, Fico said he was confident that the euro would not lead to a price spike for Slovak consumers - in contrast to Slovenia, which joined the eurozone in 2007.

Already now, Slovakia has kept inflation lower than most other post-communist countries despite rapid economic growth, Fico said.