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European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 8 April 2014

A smooth euro changeover in Latvia

The European Commission today adopted a report on the introduction of the euro in Latvia. The report presents the most important aspects of the smooth and successful changeover and draws some conclusions for future changeovers in other Member States. In particular, it shows that preventing abusive practices regarding pricing was a key element of the changeover’s success. According to the recent Flash Eurobarometer survey, a large majority of Latvians (79 %) perceived the changeover as smooth and efficient.

The communication and public awareness campaign contributed to the smooth changeover. The various target groups were appropriately informed on the practical aspects of the changeover, including specific groups such as minorities, people living in remote areas, young people and the elderly. According to a Commission survey carried out in January, the vast majority of Latvians (89%) felt well informed about the euro. Moreover, overall 80% stated that they were satisfied with the information provided by the Latvian authorities.

Full consideration was given to the concerns expressed by Latvians about the possible impact of the changeover to the euro on prices. It was therefore particularly important that the Latvian authorities took the necessary steps to prevent abusive practices and dispel erroneous perceptions of the evolution of prices.

Latvians generally considered the compulsory dual display of prices in lats and euro, which started on 1 October 2013 and will last until 30 June 2014, to be a useful tool to facilitate price comparisons and to get used to thinking in their new currency. The Commission survey carried out in January found that almost three out of four (74%) Latvians polled considered the dual price displays to be very or rather useful. 84% furthermore considered that they were always (44%) or mostly (40%) implemented correctly, which is in line with the results from the recent changeovers.

Another important initiative in this field was the "Fair Euro Introducer" campaign inviting businesses to commit not to misuse the changeover for their own profit, respect the changeover rules and provide the necessary assistance to their clients.

Background

Latvia adopted the euro on 1 January 2014, thus becoming the 18th Member State of the euro area. Like all post-2002 changeovers, Latvia introduced the euro using a so-called big-bang approach, whereby the adoption of the euro and the cash changeover took place at the same time.

A two-week dual circulation period, during which both euro and lats banknotes and coins circulated in parallel, allowed for the gradual withdrawal of lats cash. This successful changeover demonstrates again that a short dual circulation period is sufficient if the changeover is well prepared.

Banks and enterprises were successively provided with euro cash before the end of 2013. ATMs (cash dispensers) and point of Sale-terminals (for card payments) were converted in time.

Due to careful preparations, banks and post offices coped well with the extra workload during the dual circulation period. The retail sector also managed well with the challenges of the changeover process and the handling of two currencies at the same time. Retailers were well supplied with euro cash and no major problems with queues were reported.

More information can be found at:

European Commission report:

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

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

Flash Eurobarometer 393, fieldwork carried out 16-18 January 2014:

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


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