Lithuania is expected to join in the eurozone on Jan. 1, 2015 with the Baltic country meeting all the criteria, European Union (EU) Economics Commissioner Olli Rehn said Wednesday.
The European Commission (EC) explained in its 2014 Convergence Report that Lithuania fulfilled all of the criteria to adopt the euro, therefore it decided to propose to the EU Council of Ministers to accept the Baltic country to the euro area.
This report was released by the EC Wednesday after making assessment over the readiness of eight countries, with Lithuania being included, to join the euro area.
"I am pleased to announce our conclusion that Lithuania is ready to adopt the euro on 1 January 2015," said Rehu in Brussels where the report was released.
"I expect this conclusion to be discussed by the relevant EU institutions over the coming weeks, so that a final decision can be taken by the Council..." Rehn added.
"Lithuania's readiness to adopt the euro reflects its long-standing support for prudent fiscal policies and economic reforms," Rehn commented.
Lithuania's average annual inflation was 0.6 percent, the long-term interest rate over the year was 3.6 percent in April, the government debt stood at 39.4 percent of GDP at the end of 2013. Those rates were well below the Maastricht limits of respectively 1.7 percent, 6.2 percent and 60 percent.
"The country's per capita GDP has risen from just 35 percent of the EU28 average in 1995 to a projected 78 percent in 2015," Rehn evaluated Lithuania's increasing prosperity during 10 years of EU membership.
Dalia Grybauskaite, President of Lithuania, stated that the country earned its place in the euro club long time ago.
"We will be trusted more. That means cheaper borrowing and more money for pensioners and other social needs," said Grybauskaite in an interview to national television LRT.
Rimantas Sadzius, Lithuanian Finance Minister, emphasized the meaning of the decision of the EC is symbolical - after marking 10th anniversary of EU membership now Lithuania is "very close to a new reference point, yet another historical moment in the development of the country."
"The European Commission's positive decision is only the beginning of the path. We must ensure that people await the euro and that its coming is a smooth process," said Sadzius in a statement.
The EU Council will take the final decision on Lithuania's membership in the euro area in the second half of July, after discussions of the EU heads of states and after receiving the opinion of the European Parliament.
The Council will also have to irrevocably fix the exchange rate and decide on other measures necessary for the introduction of the euro in Lithuania, based on Commission proposals and after having consulted the European Central Bank.
Other candidate countries to join the eurozone -- namely Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden -- "made uneven progress towards this goal," Rehn said.
If Lithuania joins the eurozone in 2015, it will be immediately subject to the obligations under the two-pack legislation and will, in particular, be expected to submit its draft budgetary plan for the year 2016 by Oct. 15, 2015.