Estonians embrace currency despite crisis of confidence
ESTONIA has today become the first former Soviet Union country to join the eurozone, a move embraced by the majority of its people despite the deepening crisis of confidence in the single currency.
About 85 million euro coins featuring a map of the Baltic country and 12 million banknotes have gone into circulation, starting a two-week phase-out of the national currency, the kroon.
Joakim Helenius, the chief executive of Trigon Capital, an asset management company, said that 20 years after breaking away from the Soviet Union the euro was a "symbol of hope" for many Estonians, adding: "It symbolises that Estonia has emerged as a full member of the European family."
After a year of convulsions and dire predictions that the single currency cannot survive, the majority of Estonians still support becoming the 17th member of the zone. A recent poll showed that 52pc backed the move, although that was slightly down from November. The finance ministry blamed the slippage on an early case of nostalgia for the kroon.
There is widespread suspicion in Estonia that shops and restaurants, which have promised not to raise prices in the months after euro membership, have been doing so ahead of time.
Estonia, which joined the European Union in 2004, has an average monthly wage of €785 and will be the poorest member of the eurozone.
The economy is growing briskly again after a brutal recession in 2009 that knocked almost a fifth off its GDP.
Jurgen Ligi, the finance minister, said: "Estonia is too small to allow itself the luxury of full independence. There is no alternative to the euro. We are not gambling anything." (© Daily Telegraph, London)