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IP/11/1

Brussels, 3 January 2011

A successful start for the euro changeover in Estonia

On 1 January, Estonia adopted the euro as its official currency and the changeover is running smoothly and according to plan. The previous national currency – the kroon – will be phased out during a transitional two-week dual circulation period when both currencies have legal tender status in Estonia. By the end of Sunday 2 January some 26 % of payments in shops were made in euro only and over 90 % of customers were getting their change in euro. No major problems were observed in banks or in the retail sector.

On 1st January, Estonia became the 17th Member State to adopt the euro as its currency. According to a recent Commission survey1, a large proportion of Estonians already had euro cash two days before the changeover: 50 % had euro banknotes and over 60 % had euro coins – typically from trips abroad but many also from an exchange in a bank or post office in Estonia. The widespread holdings of euro cash in advance of €-day contributes to a smoother cash changeover.

The conversion of ATMs (cash dispensers) went smoothly and virtually all ATMs were distributing euro banknotes as from the first hour of 1 January. Most bank branches were furthermore open for cash services on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 January. POS-(point-of-sales) terminals for card payments in shops were likewise successfully converted to euro in time for the opening of shops on 1 January.

Due to the New Year holidays, the commercial activity during the first two days of the changeover was lower than normal. According to the Commission survey2, 36 % of those polled made a purchase on Saturday 1 January and 54 % on Sunday, whereas the rate is 60-70 % in a normal weekday. Most people who made a purchase in cash during the week-end used Estonian kroons, in order to use the old currency in shops rather than having to go to a bank to exchange them. However, at the end of the second changeover day 26 % of those polled already paid in euro only, which is a very high figure compared to previous changeovers.

Commercial banks had received euro banknotes and coins in advance from the Estonian Central Bank and had 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 first changeover day. The successful advance supply of cash enabled a very high number of retailers to provide change in euro only. At the end of the second day of the changeover, 92 % of the change was already given in the new currency. This is important in order to withdraw the old Estonian kroons from circulation as quickly as possible.

After the first two days with their new currency, 28 % of citizens polled said they already had only or mostly euro banknotes in their wallet.

Thanks to careful preparations, the start of the changeover has been successful. No major problems have been encountered so far and banks and retailers were generally coping well with the first days of the changeover.

For more information see:

http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/focuson/estonia_euro_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

1 :

Flash Eurobarometer 308. Questions asked on 30 December 2010.

2 :

Flash Eurobarometer 308. Questions asked on 1 and 2 January 2011.


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