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IP/08/602

Brussels, 18 April 2008

Changeover to the euro in Cyprus and Malta

The vast majority of the population in Cyprus and in Malta, 95% and 90% respectively, consider the changeover to the euro in their country to have been smooth and efficient[1]. Vigilance by the authorities on price conversions kept both prices themselves, and public perceptions of price rises, in check – even against a background of rising inflation due to increasing energy and food prices, which has affected Cyprus and Malta as well as the rest of the euro area and the world. The impact of the changeover itself on inflation is estimated at between 0.2 and 0.3 percentage points, much the same as in previous changeovers[2]. The introduction of the euro in Cyprus and Malta also provides a number of useful lessons for future changeovers: there should be a simplified procedure to allow small businesses to get cash ahead of €-day, coin production should take account of demand from collectors abroad and, as is already clear from past experience, a comprehensive information campaign to boost consumer confidence is absolutely essential.

These are some of the main findings set out in a Communication adopted today by the European Commission on the introduction of the euro in Cyprus and Malta on 1 January this year[3]. Cyprus and Malta brought the number of European Union countries that share the euro to 15 and the number of people in the EU who use it as their currency to nearly 320 million. The Communication, which covers the period until the end of February, presents the salient aspects of the changeover in the two countries and draws some important lessons for future changeovers in other Member States.

Citizens are at ease with the euro cash

The Maltese and Cypriots adapted swiftly to using euro cash, as shown by surveys conducted during the first weeks of this year[4]. On 4 January, more than 70% of all cash payments were already conducted in euro, a higher proportion than observed in most countries when euro cash was first introduced in 2002 and in Slovenia in 2007.

By the beginning of February, almost 90% of Maltese and 95% of Cypriots found it very easy or quite easy to distinguish between the various euro banknotes while 75% and 81% respectively said they had no problem telling the different euro coins apart. Some 84% of Maltese and 73% of Cypriots also said it was easy or rather easy to convert from Maltese liras/Cyprus pounds to euro. One month after the introduction of the euro, eight out of ten Cypriots and seven out of ten Maltese said they understand values in euro ‘well’ or ‘quite well’.

Long queues were seen in some Maltese and Cypriot banks, however, which shows the importance of a careful planning of the work involved in the changeover, as well as the need for additional resources, such as extra counters and staff, in the first days after €-day.

In order to enable more retailers in future changeovers to be supplied with euro cash in advance, and to reduce the waiting lines in banks after €-day, the ECB is currently investigating the possibility of simplifying its guidelines on sub-frontloading (i.e. supplying retailers with euro cash before €-day), based on the simplified sub-frontloading procedures used in Cyprus.

The relatively high volumes of exported coins suggest that collector market demand should be taken into consideration when planning coin production as orders from collectors may significantly alter the volume of coins available during the changeover, especially in small countries.

The authorities in both countries took a very active approach to countering people’s fears of price abuses during the changeover. Malta was the first country where smoothing up prices on conversion to the euro was prohibited by law. The rigorous implementation of this ban in Malta and the thorough control of prices in Cyprus by its Euro Observatories and the Consumers Association apparently had a positive impact on citizens' perceptions of inflation, which have been kept in check in the first months since the euro changeover – even though measured inflation has accelerated, as it has in the other EU countries.

According to the February 2008 Eurobarometer, 84% of Maltese and 55% of Cypriots believe that price conversions into euro were always or mostly fair. At the same time, three quarters of Maltese (77%) and two thirds of Cypriots (68%) found the dual display of prices ‘very useful’. This is much higher than in the previous changeover to the euro – in Slovenia in 2007 – where only 47% found it very useful. Dual price display is mandatory until 30 September 2008 in Cyprus and until 30 June 2008 in Malta.

The high degree of satisfaction with the changeover among the general public can also be attributed to the success of the information and communication campaigns. More than nine out of ten citizens in both countries felt well informed about the euro and were satisfied with the information provided by the national authorities. However the Eurobarometer survey revealed fair rounding and correct pricing and the security features of the euro as areas where more information would have been useful.


[1] Flash Eurobarometer survey 222-223, available at

http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/euro_en.htm

[2] Eurostat: Euro Changeover and Inflation in Cyprus and Malta, April 2008

[3] Commission Communication on the introduction of the euro in Cyprus and Malta, COM(2008)204, available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/thematic_articles/article12417_en.htm

[4] Flash Eurobarometer survey 220-221, available at

http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/euro_en.htm


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