It is only a few weeks to go until Lithuanians start using euros to pay for everyday transactions in their country. On 1 January 2015, Lithuania will become the 19th member of the euro area, which will then encompass all three Baltic States. Today, the Commission has adopted its fifteenth report on the practical preparations for the changeover, assessing the progress made up until the end of September 2014.
The Lithuanian Mint has started minting 370 million euro coins featuring Vytis ‘the Chaser’, an armoured knight on horseback represented on Lithuania’s coat of arms. 132 million euro banknotes of various denominations have been borrowed from Deutsche Bundesbank.
The Lithuanian central bank, the Bank of Lithuania, started to provide commercial banks with euro coins and euro banknotes on 1 October and 1 November 2014 respectively.
Until 15 January 2015, Lithuanian litas and euros will circulate in parallel. Retailers will have a particularly important role to play as ‘de facto exchange offices’ during this period.
In order to address consumers’ concerns about price increases and abusive practices during the changeover period, a campaign called the ‘Memorandum on Good Business Practice upon the Introduction of the Euro’ was launched in August. By signing the Memorandum, businesses (e.g. retailers) commit that they will not to use the adoption of the euro as a pretext for increasing prices of goods and services. By signing the memorandum, they agree to apply the official conversion rate; to follow rounding rules; to indicate prices clearly and understandably in both currencies (litas and euros); and they pledge to not mislead consumers. Signatories are entitled to use a special logo. This is a very important initiative and efforts to increase its coverage and impact – notably through the ‘Fair price conversion’ campaign – should be stepped up in the remaining weeks before the changeover.
The communication campaign has intensified during the autumn under the guidance of the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Lithuania. It focuses on practical aspects of the euro’s introduction, in line with the needs expressed by the Lithuanian population in the Flash Eurobarometer survey 402 on Lithuania.
In order to have a smooth transition as other countries that have recently adopted the euro, the Lithuanian authorities should continue to address the remaining concerns related to the euro’s introduction and to increase consumers’ confidence.
More practical details on the introduction of the euro
Commercial banks will start providing their clients with euro bank notes and coins on 1 December 2014.
900 000 euro coin starter kits for the general public will be available as of 1 December 2014 at three cash offices of the Bank of Lithuania, in 343 bank branches and at least 330 post offices. Each starter kit contains a mix of all Lithuanian euro coins in all denominations (value of one kit: EUR 11.59). Retailers may choose between two sizes of starter kits (EUR 111.00 or EUR 200.00).
All ATMs in Lithuania will dispense euro banknotes by the early hours of 1 January 2015. A total of 343 bank branches will provide unlimited cash exchange services (banknotes and coins) free of charge until 30 June 2015. 330 post offices will change litas cash up to the value of EUR 1 000 per transaction, free of charge until 1 March 2015. From 1 July 2015, 89 bank branches will continue to provide unlimited and free of charge exchange services (litas banknotes) for six more months. The Bank of Lithuania will change unlimited amounts of litas cash into euros for an unlimited period of time and free of charge.
Preparations in the other Member States
A staff working document attached to the report looks at the state of preparations in the other Member States that have not yet adopted the euro (except the UK and Denmark, which have a formal opt-out from the single currency).