It’s bye bye from him and hello from her…
Latvia joined the Euro today, becoming the 18th member of the Eurozone. This has been the government’s target for years. Latvia was originally scheduled to join the Euro on 1 January 2008, but the economic crisis pushed Latvia way back. Given that crisis and the subsequent problems in the Eurozone, Latvians became distictly lukewarm towards the Euro. A poll on 2 December 2013 showed 45% in favour of joining and 52% against. There were even attempts to organise a referendum on the issue back in early 2013, but that couldn’t happen as the issue had already been decided in an earlier referendum. Unless they have an opt out, countries in the EU must join the Euro when meeting the Maastricht criteria.
Sadly, as I’m still in Ireland, I haven’t been able to witness the changeover, but reports from my friends on social media seem to suggest that it’s all gone smoothly. I’m in two minds about it all, the lat was something distinctive for Latvia and I find the local Euro coins a bit bland, though I realise they’re based on the historic 5 lat coin, which is symbolic of independence for many Latvians. The reality is, in the globalised world, Latvia is too small to have a completely independent economic policy, so any lat was always going to be closely tied to a Euro, Deutsche Mark or a north European replacement Euro. The lat was basically a virtual Euro anyway, so why not have the real thing?
Ultimately time will tell if it was a good idea or not, but I’m looking forward to spending my Euros in random corners of Riga in 2014.