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IP/10/1777

Brussels, 31 December 2010

At midnight Estonia will adopt the euro

Estonia will adopt the euro on 1 January 2011 and so become the 17th member of the euro area. This will bring to over 330 million the number of people who share the single currency.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said: "I congratulate Estonia and warmly welcome all its citizens to the euro area. The euro is there to improve everyday life. It makes travel elsewhere in the euro area easier and cheaper for Estonian citizens, with no need to change currencies and pay commission. Estonia's entry means that over 330 million Europeans now carry euro notes and coins in their pockets. It is a strong signal of the attraction and stability that the euro brings to Member States of the European Union".

"I am very happy to welcome Estonia into the euro area. This is a great achievement and a fair reward for a country that has been firmly committed to maintaining sound fiscal policies. The single currency will provide a stable framework for the Estonian economy, which together with sound fiscal and macro-economic polices will create the basis for economic prosperity", said Olli Rehn, European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs.

Preparations for the introduction of the euro in Estonia are now completed. Commercial banks have received euro banknotes and coins in advance from the Estonian Central Bank and have in turn supplied euro cash to shops and other businesses under a specific contract, so that they can handle payments and return change in euro as from the 1st of January.

There will be a dual circulation period of two weeks, starting on 1 January 2011, during which the two currencies will circulate alongside each other in order to allow for a gradual withdrawal of Estonian kroons. Shops are however expected to give change in euro only in order to speed up the changeover and reduce the cost of having to handle two currencies simultaneously.

The general public has been able to buy 700 000 mini-kits of euro coins (with the Estonian national side) to acquaint themselves in advance with their new currency. As from 1 December, all bank branches with cash services have been exchanging kroon cash holdings free of charge at the official conversion rate (1 EUR= 15.6466 EEK). After 30 June 2011 this service will continue to be provided at a more limited branch network until the end of December 2011. The Estonian Central Bank will exchange kroons for euro during an unlimited period.

To facilitate the changeover, the commercial banks will extend opening hours during the changeover and have foreseen additional staff. Most bank branches will be open on the 1st and 2nd  of January to offer cash services. All ATMs (cash dispensers) will be able to dispense euro banknotes as from midnight on 1 January.

In order to make it easier for consumers to get used to the new scale of monetary values, prices must be displayed both in kroons and euro as from 1 July 2010 until 30 June 2011. The implementation of this rule is supervised by the Estonian Consumer Protection Board, which publishes the names of enterprises that do not implement this rule correctly and which may also impose fines.

In order to address citizens' concerns about possible price increases and abusive price practices in the changeover period, a Fair Pricing Agreement was moreover launched in August 2010. Businesses that sign up commit not to increase their prices without justification during the changeover to the euro and to respect the changeover rules. Over 500 entities have joined the Agreement, covering around 2 500 sales locations.

The preparations for the changeover included a comprehensive communication campaign amongst all residents of Estonia to create awareness about the practical aspects of adopting the euro. The European Commission and the European Central Bank contributed considerably to these efforts. The mass media campaigns through television and radio channels, the dissemination of publications and promotional material, seminars, exhibitions and conferences, etc. contributed to the good knowledge of euro matters in Estonia.

For more information see:

http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/focuson/estonia_euro_en.htm

http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/euro/countries/estonia_en.htm

Estonia's national changeover web site:

http://euro.eesti.ee/EU/Prod/Euroveeb/Main_Page/index.jsp

For more information on the euro see:

http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/euro/index_en.htm


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