icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm
1 Jan, 2015 18:52

​Lithuania joins Eurozone despite 40% of population being against

Lithuania has celebrated the New Year by joining the eurozone. The decision is country’s bid to boost stability despite inflation fears and euro zone debt troubles. However, according to a November poll about 40 percent of the population opposed the move.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius was withdrew his first 10 euro from Vilnius cash machine right after midnight January 1. The exchange rate is now set at one euro for 3.45 litas, the country’s old currency. Both litas and euros will circulate in the country till June.

"The euro will serve as a guarantee for our economic and political security," Butkevicius said at a ceremony which was attended by officials of other Baltic states - Estonia and Latvia.

Latvia joined eurozone on January 1, 2014 despite opinion polls showed that a majority of the country’s population opposed the move, with just one-fifth strongly in favor. Estonia joined the currency bloc in 2011.

A customer pays in euro banknotes in a supermarket in Vilnius on January 1, 2015. (AFP Photo / Petras Malukas)

READ MORE: Latvia joins eurozone, but half of population opposed

"Myself, and I think, many of you feel sad that the litas, which has served us well for more than two decades, becomes history, but we have to move forward," said Lithuania's Finance Minister Rimantas Sadzius at the ceremony.

Earlier the country’s President Dalia Grybauskaite said that joining eurozone is symbol of "deeper economic and political integration with the West.”

However, not everyone in Lithuania shared the optimism of Grybauskaite. According to a November survey released by the central bank, only 53 percent of the population supported the move, while 39 percent were against.

(L-R): Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius , Chairman of the Board of the Bank of Lithuania Vitas Vasiliauskas, and Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas. (AFP Photo / Petras Malukas)

"Financial commitments are a huge burden and increase the country's debt. I think we should have delayed entry," financial analyst Valdemaras Katkus told AFP.

In the meantime the European Commission has put a huge banner over its headquarters in Brussels, saying "Welcome to the euro area, Lithuania!"

EU economic affairs commissioner Pierre Moscovici said that in joining the euro, the Lithuanian people are “choosing to be part of an area of stability, security and prosperity.”

Lithuania has already donated millions of euros to the eurozone's rescue fund for struggling EU members, such as Greece.