2008 will see two of Europe’s smaller countries joining much of the rest of the continent, by adopting the euro. Banks in Cyprus and Malta will be closed for New Year’s Day, but most cash machines will dispense euros after midnight.
In Nicosia, the Minister of Finance, Michalis Sarris, owns up to a hint of sadness for the demise of the Cyprus pound: “I think emotionally we will miss it, but I think economically, financially, commercially, from a business point of view, it is the correct decision that far outweighs the emotional attachment that we have to this faithful and attractive servant.”
Taxi-driver Polis Poliviou already displays fares in his cab in both Cyprus pounds and euros. It will be good for the tourist business, but he thinks the loss of the pound is a shame: “Everybody’s got the same coin everywhere, everybody’s got the same money. It’s like you lose your flag, your personality, your image. You have the same as everybody in Europe.”
The two islands bring more than a million new consumers to the eurozone. British military bases in Cyprus will be the first sovereign British territories to adopt the euro. Scrapping currency exchange costs could kickstart the two islands’ economies.
Malta is already enjoying a tourist boom, with the arrival of low-cost airlines. But Valletta is also planning to attract hi-tech investment. Several pharmaceutical companies have set up research centres, and the German airline Lufthansa has just agreed to maintain Air Malta’s fleet of planes.