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Latvia Becomes 18th Euro-Zone Member

After Latvia adopts the euro at midnight tonight, Latvians will start withdrawing euro cash and paying for their purchases in euro.

Latvia becomes the 18th EU Member State to use the single currency on the 15th anniversary of the launch of the euro. With this, 333 million people across Europe will share the same currency.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said "This is a major event, not only for Latvia, but for the euro area itself, which remains stable, attractive and open to new members. For Latvia, it is the result of impressive efforts and the unwavering determination of the authorities and the Latvian people. Thanks to these efforts, undertaken in the aftermath of a deep economic crisis, Latvia will enter the euro area stronger than ever, sending an encouraging message to other countries undergoing a difficult economic adjustment."

Olli Rehn, the European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, said Latvia's efforts have paid off and the country's strong economic recovery "offers a clear message of encouragement to other European countries undergoing a difficult economic adjustment. Joining the euro marks the completion of Latvia's journey back to the political and economic heart of our continent, and that is something for all of us to celebrate."

From tomorrow, the euro will gradually replace the lats as the currency of Latvia. There will be a dual circulation period of two weeks, during which the two currencies will circulate alongside each other in order to allow for a progressive withdrawal of Latvian lats. When receiving a payment in lats, the change will be given in euro.

Commercial banks have received euro banknotes and coins in advance from the Latvian Central Bank, the Bank of Latvia, and have in turn supplied euro cash to shops and other businesses.

A total of 800,000 starter kits with euro coins bearing Latvian national sides have been available to the general public since 10 December. Moreover, 70,000 dedicated starter kits have been offered to retailers.

As of 1 January, the Bank of Latvia will change unlimited amounts of lats into euro at the official conversion rate (1 EUR = 0.702804 LVL) for an unlimited period of time and free of charge. Commercial banks will provide unlimited cash exchange services free of charge until 30 June 2014 and post offices until 31 March 2014.

Nearly all automatic teller machines in Latvia will distribute euro banknotes within the first 30 minutes of 1 January 2014. To facilitate the process, some banks have extended business hours. On 1 January, 22 branches of the three largest banks will be open during the afternoon. Several banks will deploy additional staff for cash operations in branches during the dual circulation period. Post offices will not open on 1 January, but against usual practice will do so on the following Saturday, 4 January 2014, the European Commission said in a press release.

Prices have had to be displayed both in lats and euro since 1 October 2013 and this rule will apply until 30 June 2014.

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