The European Union said that member nations Cyprus and Malta are prepared to introduce the Euro next January first, which will bring to 15 the number of nations sharing the currency.
A final assessment of the planned changeover for the two Mediterranean nations found that both had completed preparations, including the delivery of Euro notes and coins to banks. The Euro will replace the Cypriot pound and the Maltese lira. The EU Monetary and Economic Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said the two nations, which joined the EU in 2004, had to "pursue policies that continue to deliver economic stability as a precondition for sustained growth and job creation." Cyprus and Malta were given the final go-ahead to join the Euro zone in July by their EU counterparts. The tow countries will add just over a million people to the 318 million who now use the Euro. Their economies account for 0.2% of Euro-zone gross domestic product. Only one other country that joined the EU at the same time ÃÂ¢€" Slovenia ÃÂ¢€" has so far adopted the Euro. The largest of the EU newcomers ÃÂ¢€" Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria ÃÂ¢€" have yet to set a date for Euro entry. Estonia had planned to join next year but will delay membership as inflation surges in its growing economy, a problem that has also slowed Latvian and Lithuanian plans. Slovakia is scheduled to join in 2009. To keep their shared currency stable, Euro nations are supposed to keep overall public debt below 60% of GDP. However, even the largest Euro economies have had trouble with these rules and Euro candidates can be accepted if they can show that they are on track to meet these limits.