Latvia to become 18th eurozone member

  • Latvia is to become the 18th country to start using the euro, the European Commission announced on Wednesday.

    "I am very glad to announce that we have concluded that Latvia is ready to adopt the euro on the first of January 2014, the first of January next year, having achieved a high degree of sustainable economic convergence with the euro area," said Vice-President of the European Commission, Olli Rehn.

    The decision is to be formally approved by European Union finance ministers on July 9.

    Latvia was hit hard by the 2008 global financial crisis, affecting its real estate market and leading to the closure of one of its top banks.

    The country was forced to accept a bailout from the International Monetary Fund and European Union.

    The center-right government then went on to raise taxes and slash wages in one of Europe’s toughest austerity programs.

    Baltic neighbor Estonia has been using the euro since 2011 while Lithuania hopes to switch to the currency in 2015.

    The three countries regained their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

    Joining the eurozone is seen as a sign of reducing dependence on Russia and forging stronger ties with Western Europe.

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