On 1 January 2014 - on the 15th anniversary of the launch of the euro in 1999 - Latvia adopted the common currency. Accordingly, 18 member states and 333 million Europeans are now using the same currency. There will be a transition period of two weeks during which the national currency - the lats - and the euro will both be circulating.
The international ratings agency Fitch also confirmed that from 3 January, Latvia's long-term foreign and local currency issuer default rating (IDR) would remain at 'BBB+', with a stable outlook. The agency stresses that the country's entry into the eurozone reinforces its credit standing among others because it would allow Latvian banks to access the European Central Bank's (ECB) liquidity facilities. Latvia has a "weak budget deficit and its level of public debt is set to decline," according to Fitch, which has evaluated the deficit at 1.4% of GDP and the debt to GDP ratio at 40.8%. However, the agency is also quick to point out the Latvian economy's weaknesses, particularly its dependence on external financing.
Since 1 January, the Bank of Latvia has been changing unlimited amounts of lats into euro at the official conversion rate (1 = LVL0.702804) during an unlimited period without fees. Commercial banks will offer free cash exchanges for unlimited amounts until 30 June 2014 and post offices will be doing the same until 31 March 2014.
Since 1 October 2013, prices should be displayed in lats and euro - a rule that will apply until 30 June 2014. The European Commission points out that, in order to reassure worried consumers about the rise in prices and possible abusive practices during the changeover period, a "fair euro introducer" campaign was launched in July 2013. The campaign encourages companies (retailers, financial institutions, e-commerce sites, etc) to make a commitment to not take unfair advantage of the euro changeover, to respect the changeover rules and to be as helpful as...