Latvia became a eurozone member on jan 1st 2014. This happened on the 15th anniversary of the launch of the euro in 1999. Now, 18 Member-States and 333 million Europeans will share the same currency. This is a major achievement for Latvia and for the euro area as a whole.
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said: “I am delighted to welcome Latvia as the eighteenth member of the euro area. This is a major event, not only for Latvia, but for the euro area itself, which remains stable, attractive and open to new members. For Latvia, it is the result of impressive efforts and the unwavering determination of the authorities and the Latvian people. Thanks to these efforts, undertaken in the aftermath of a deep economic crisis, Latvia will enter the euro area stronger than ever, sending an encouraging message to other countries undergoing a difficult economic adjustment. On behalf of the European Commission and myself, I offer my sincere congratulations to Latvia and best wishes for the future.”
Olli Rehn, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, said: “I want to very warmly welcome Latvia to the euro. Your efforts have paid off and your country’s strong economic recovery offers a clear message of encouragement to other European countries undergoing a difficult economic adjustment. Joining the euro marks the completion of Latvia’s journey back to the political and economic heart of our continent, and that is something for all of us to celebrate.”
There will be a dual circulation period of two weeks, during which the two currencies will circulate alongside each other in order to allow for a progressive withdrawal of Latvian lats till jan 15th 2013. When receiving a payment in lats, the change will be given in euro.
A total of 800,000 starter kits with euro coins bearing Latvian national sides have been available to the general public since 10 December. Moreover, 70,000 dedicated starter kits have been offered to retailers.
Since Jan 1st 2013, the Bank of Latvia is changing unlimited amounts of lats into euro at the official conversion rate (1 EUR = 0.702804 LVL) for an unlimited period of time and free of charge. Commercial banks will provide unlimited cash exchange services free of charge until 30 June 2014 and post offices until 31 March 2014.