The adoption of the euro – single currency of the European Union – was foreseen in 1992 by the European Union Treaty (Maastricht Treaty) signed by representatives of 12 Member States of the European Union.. In 1998, the EU summit meeting confirmed the compliance of 11 out of 15 the then EU Member States with the criteria for the introduction of a single currency. After an irrevocable setting of currency rates of these EU Member States on 1 January 1999, the monetary policy implementation was shifted to the European Central Bank. From that date the euro substituted national currencies in electronic transfers. On 1 January 2002 euro cash – euro coins and banknotes – was issued into circulation, thus becoming a legal tender.
When acceding to the European Union on 1 May 2004, Lithuania assumed an obligation to adopt the euro in the future. This is envisaged in the Treaty establishing the European Community enshrining a provision that all EU Member States must coordinate their economic policy, as well as their exchange rate policy, implement an appropriate fiscal policy and join the euro when fulfilling single currency adoption conditions set the in EC Treaty. Lithuania will be allowed to introduce the euro upon the implementation of requirements provided for in this Treaty. Experts say that in long-term the euro will create more favourable conditions for the development of national economy and accelerate catching up with higher living standards, it will also be more convenient for travellers because of no need to exchange currency. The single currency will give Lithuania additional economic and financial security because the euro has already become an attractive global currency used for international trade, issue of loans, and formation of reserves.
The Bank of Lithuania supports the efforts of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania to reach compliance with the convergence criteria and introduce the euro as soon as possible.
The preparations for the euro adoption have been finalised already in some important areas, or at least a lot has been done. This could be said about the minting of euro and euro cent coins, the cash changeover and joining the Eurosystem’s payment system.
Each EU Member State that has adopted the euro enjoys the right of issuing euro coins into circulation in the euro area with one side that is common for all countries (the common side) and the other side that is different (the national side). When Lithuania adopts the euro, it will issue euro circulation coins with the symbol of our national emblem Vytis. Public surveys revealed that it was the wish of the majority of the country’s people. In February 2005, the Board of the Bank of Lithuania approved three plaster models for the national side of the euro coins designed by the sculptor Antanas Žukauskas, to be used to strike coins with the denominations of 1 and 2 euros, 10, 20 and 50 cents and 1, 2 and 5 cents. Twelve stars (the symbol of the EU) are positioned respectively against the background of vertical and horizontal lines.
The Lithuanian Mint is fully ready for striking euro coins. In accordance with the procedure established by the European Union, the quality management system for the production of euro coins has been already tested and the tools for minting the new common side of all euro coins are in place.
In cooperation with the European Commission and the European Central Bank, the Bank prepared and issued publications in Lithuanian, Russian, and Polish about the single currency of the European Union, the euro. Seminars dedicated to this topic and lectures to pupils, students, teachers, business people, cash officers at commercial banks, public servants and other groups are organised all around the country.