The Euro area is now the EU16 after Slovak changeover

On January 1st, 2009, two major events were on the Eu Agenda. Not only Slovakia was ready to adopt the Euro, but it did so on the same date of its 10th anniversary. With Slovakia, the number of European Union countries that share the same currency grew to 16. All available data showed that in this first day, the changeover from the Slovak koruna to the euro was made with no problems, and citizens were able to withdraw euro cash from ATMs all over Slovakia and to use it for daily payments.

As people gathered massively to celebrate joyfully the euro changeover and the new year's eve in the historic heart of Bratislava, the conversion of the ATMs went smoothly and citizens could start withdrawing euro banknotes as of midnight.

According to a Commission survey on Slovak preparation for the Euro changeover, a large proportion of the Slovak citizens already had Euros three days before the changeover: 60% had Euro coins (mainly from the starter kits -53%- and from a previous trip abroad -42%-); while 49% had Euro banknotes (mainly from a trip abroad -56%- and from an exchange in a bank in Slovakia -39%-).

This widespread holding of Euros by the citizens has contributed to a smooth start of the cash payments in Euro in the first days of January. Despite the high volume of Euro cash already in the economy, most citizens have respected the prohibition to use it before the launching day. Slovak authorities put in place a large information campaign which contributed in order to assure that all citizens would be familiar wi the measures to implement the Euro in Slovakia.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso congratulated Slovakia for joining the Euro on the tenth anniversary of the currency, highlighting the opportunity that this event represents for the country as the “euro will help Slovakia to take part in, and benefit from, Europe's collective effort to recover from the current economic crisis. By joining the euro area, Slovakia has enhanced its long-term potential to create growth and jobs and keep inflation under control”.

But, as President Barroso also mentioned, this is not only the case of a new currency adoption, it is also the time to shape a new step on the history of European integration as on this “historic New Year's Day, Slovakia is a powerful symbol of economic and political progress and of European integration". Two weeks before this historic event, President Barroso already highlighted the importance of Slovakia joining the euro, and doing so for the 10th anniversary of the currency.

President Barroso, Commissioner Almunia and Education Commissioner and Slovak national Ján Figel will attend a ceremony in the Slovak capital Bratislava, on 8 January, to celebrate the adoption of the euro by Slovakia.

The Euro, symbol of European Identity

To celebrate the euro 10th anniversary, euro area countries have issued, from January 1st, a total of 84 million €2 commemorative coins. The design of the special coin was selected through a popular web vote organised by the Commission.

As Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner, Mr. Joaquín Almunia pointed out, “the euro has become the symbol of EU identity and is proving to be a solid stabilising factor in currency markets both inside and outside the euro area. This is no mean feat as no other markets from banking to securities have been spared by the global financial and economic crisis”.

Europe should be proud of that record and safeguard the sound budgetary and macroeconomic framework that has made the euro such a success. Commissioner Almunia affirmed that the Commission certainly has every intention to apply the Stability and Growth Pact and to carry on with its budgetary surveillance duties conferred by the Treaty.