Leading by example, Malta’s prime minister has shown his eagerness to get to grips with the euro currency, newly adopted by the Mediterranean island. Flanked by photographers and camera crews in Valletta, Lawrence Gonzi used a cash machine to obtain euro banknotes.
The cash changeover at the stroke of midnight was an extra reason to celebrate the start of 2008 in the EU’s smallest member nation. Already enjoying a tourism boom with the arrival of low-cost airlines, Malta hopes the move will further boost its economy. “The introduction of the euro means that Malta is now more close to the European reality,” said Gonzi. “It means it will attract more investment, more jobs, better jobs.”
Another former British colony, Cyprus, has also made the switch. It is applicable only in the Greek Cypriot south, run by the internationally recognized government representing Cyprus in the European Union.
A Cypriot himself, EU Commissioner Markos Kyprianou took part in the celebrations. “Now, after sacrifices and hard work, they are joining the euro zone and adopting the euro which, is not only the strongest currency in the world – so there are all the economic benefits there – but, at the same time, it brings Cyprus into the very heart of the European Union,” he said.
UK military bases on the island will be the first part of sovereign British territory to adopt the euro currency. But, while the party in Nicosia went with a swing, not all Cypriots are convinced. Polls suggest around two-thirds of people fear price rises may follow.