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Bulgaria hopes to join euro zone 'waiting room' by year-end

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SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria hopes to join the precursor to euro zone membership, the ERM-2 exchange rate mechanism before year-end, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said on Wednesday, pushing back Sofia’s initial target of joining this summer.

The Balkan country, a European Union member since 2007, had aimed to join the bloc’s banking union and the two-year “waiting room” for euro zone membership together in July.

The European Central Bank is still carrying out health checks on six of its lenders, however, with results expected next month.

“I hope that … entering into the ERM mechanism, can happen by the end of the year, even sooner than the end of the year,” national radio BNR quoted Goranov as saying at an economic forum in Plovdiv.

“There has never been a better moment with bigger trust both political and economic from our western partners to the perspective of Bulgaria entering the closer circle of the European integration,” he also said.

Bulgaria, whose lev currency is already pegged to the euro, meets the nominal criteria to adopt the single currency, with healthy public finances and low debt, but is also one of Europe’s poorest and most corrupt countries.

Sofia has made wide-ranging commitments to secure banking union and ERM-2 membership, including strengthening of its banking sector and its anti-money laundering systems.

(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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