Kalniņa-Lukaševica: Introducing the euro calls for a sustainable economy in Latvia


On Wednesday, 9 January, as a part of evaluating the introduction of the single European currency, the euro, and the attendant awareness raising campaign, Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, Chairperson of the European Affairs Committee of the Saeima, pointed out that the introduction of the euro has two essential aspects: Meeting the Maastricht criteria in the long term, which requires a stable national economy; and raising public awareness about the advantages of joining the euro area.

“Today’s meeting demonstrated that the introduction of the single European currency, the euro, is important both for the macroeconomic performance of the country and for each inhabitant of Latvia. Euro is about form, not substance, for it has no intrinsic meaning. The substance is Latvia’s people, their education and ability to contribute to the national economy. If we focus on one aspect and neglect the other, the country cannot develop properly. It is not in vain that the European Commission in its Convergence Report pays special attention to reforms in higher education. Introduction of the euro should go hand in hand with rapid and decisive changes in Latvia’s higher education system,” Kalniņa-Lukaševica noted.

During the committee meeting, the Chairperson specifically stressed the need to ensure a sustainable economy in Latvia. “One of the first practical steps on the way to the euro is to request a Convergence Report from the European Commission. The Report is not merely a technical document because it will deal with more than macroeconomic indicators. The comment received last summer from the Council of the European Union regarding recommendations for Latvia for 2012 called attention to the need to reform various areas, including tax policy and education,” Kalniņa-Lukaševica said.

The convergence programme is a medium-term fiscal policy planning tool that defines main objectives of the fiscal policy and reforms necessary for attaining them.

Inna Šteinbuka, Head of the European Commission Representation in Latvia, also stated that Latvia must show the European Commission that it has long-term plans for ensuring a stable economy.

Kalniņa-Lukaševica also noted that “it is necessary to be more active in explaining to society the process of introducing the euro and the resulting benefits in order to avoid speculation and concerns among people”.

MP Dzintars Rasnačs (National Alliance of All for Latvia! and For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK) highlighted the need to perceive the Maastricht criteria not only as a benchmark for the period up to 1 January 2014 but also in the long term in order to prevent the Latvian economy from overheating again. Igors Pimenovs, Secretary of the European Affairs Committee, emphasised the need to keep the inflation indicator within the Maastricht criteria also after 2014.

Members of the Committee agreed with experts on the need to dispel various myths about the introduction of the euro. Andris Ruselis, Deputy Governor of the Bank of Latvia, gave an example of the concerns expressed by members of the general public over salaries, which would allegedly be converted from lats to euros according to the exchange rate of 1:1, and that would mean a dramatic drop in income. Such gossip is complete nonsense because after introducing the euro, salaries, as well as pensions and benefits, will be paid in euros according to a strictly fixed exchange rate, and amounts in euros will be rounded off to whole numbers. 

As time restrictions prevented the Committee from covering all relevant matters, the introduction of the single currency and the relevant awareness raising campaign will continue to be considered next week at the committee meeting on Wednesday, 16 January, in the Red Room, Jēkaba iela 11.

Saeima Press Service

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