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EU finance ministers have officially given Latvia the nod to become the 18th member of the eurozone.

The country was hit hard by the economic downturn of 2008, which wiped almost a fifth off its GDP.

But a series of tough reforms has turned its economy around. Last year, Latvia posted a growth rate of 5.6 percent.

“Latvia convincingly meets the five Maastricht convergence criteria and its economic policies are on a sustainable path,” said EU economics commissioner Olli Rehn.

Opinion polls show more than 50 percent of Latvians oppose adopting the euro, arguing it will drive up prices.

Not so, says Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis.

He told euronews: “We are about to sign an agreement with business community on what we call “the fair introduction of the euro” where businesses commits that they will convert prices strictly according to the official exchange rate, so that the euro introduction will not be used as some kind of attempt to raise prices”.

The new ‘Latvian’ euro coins will be issued from 1 January, 2014.

Their design will be based on Latvia’s soon-to-be-extinct national currency, the lat.

Copyright © 2014 euronews

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