Euro Conference Latvia
Today, at the Great Guild Hall in Riga, Euro Conference Latvia took place in which the economic policy makers and economists of Latvia and the European Union discussed development of the euro area and improvement of its governance.
This is a historic moment for Latvia, which on 1 January 2014 will become the 18th euro area member by joining a monetary union in which more than 330 million people use a single currency, the euro, in their financial transactions.
The euro introduction brings to a close a long and challenging period, during which integration of Latvian economy and monetary policy took place for successful participation in the euro area. Since regaining independence, important economic and social reforms have taken place in Latvia and a modern and democratic state has been built with a dynamic economy.
Unfortunately, Latvia did not manage to join the euro area on the originally set target date, on 1 January 2008, but the structural reforms carried out during the crisis have returned our country on the road to growth. The economic difficulty we experienced and the measures that had to be taken was a bitter yet valuable experience both to us and to other countries, and it once again demonstrated the importance of balanced growth and well-weighed economic policies. This lesson is particularly important now that Latvia has left the crisis behind and there are signs of recovery in the euro area as well.
It has become a tradition to organize a large-scale forum in the euro area members-to-be with the participation of national- and European-level policy makers, economists, entrepreneurs, and mass media representatives to discuss topical issues regarding joining the euro area.
Euro Conference Latvia that took place in Riga was organized by the Bank of Latvia in cooperation with the European Central Bank (ECB), European Commission and Ministry of Finance.
In his conference address, the ECB President Mario Draghi reminded his audience of the roots of European integration that stretch all the way back to the Hanseatic League. "I am pleased that by joining the euro next year, Latvia is strengthening its place at the heart of Europe," Mr. Draghi said.
He emphasized that introduction of the euro does not constitute only a change in monetary policy but also the opportunity for the Bank of Latvia to participate in the decision making regarding the future of the world's second largest economy – the euro area.
Vice President of the European Commission, Commissar for economic and monetary affairs, Olli Rehn, acknowledged the progress Latvia has achieved in the integration of its economy and the reforms carried out in putting its economic house in order. "Welcome to the euro area!" Mr. Rehn said.
Governor of the Bank of Latvia Ilmārs Rimšēvičs looked back on what Latvia has accomplished after the restoration of independence. Just twenty-five years ago, the thought of a free and independent country was but a dream. It was even more difficult to imagine that Latvia could become a full member of the European Union and NATO or that we could have currency shared by 330 million Europeans.
"Nevertheless, all these dreams were turned into reality. How did it happen? First, there were clearly set aims, then – a strong determination and very decisive action. And second – we received invaluable support from our friends," stressed Mr. Rimšēvičs.
It is decisive action that has helped Latvia to overcome its recent economic difficulty and now our country has become the fastest growing economy in the European Union as well as it has met the Maastricht criteria to become the 18th euro area member state.
Euro introduction will mean two things for Latvia: opportunities and responsibilities. The euro as a trusted and secure currency will provide Latvia with better opportunities for external trade, attraction of investments, creation of jobs and promotion of economic growth.
Yet the euro is no magic wand, it is an instrument for continued structural reforms that are still necessary for Latvia's development. In the words of Mr. Rimšēvičs: "However, the euro itself – and that can be said about any currency – is not a wand. The euro just establishes a solid basis for further structural reforms that are still necessary for our economy. The euro will provide excellent opportunities for our economic development, but it will first and foremost depend on ourselves, both on policy makers and on businesses, how we are able to use them to the benefit of our people and the future of our country."
As part of the event, the Governor of the ECB Mr. Draghi presented the Governor of the Bank of Latvia Mr. Rimšēvičs with a Euro Star, a symbolic key to the euro area.
The political discussion and the Euro Star presentation were followed by a panel discussion entitled "The Euro: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow", with the participation of Yves Bertoncini, director of Notre Europe – Jacques Delors Institute, Henrik Enderlein, professor of the Hertie School of Governance, Zoja Razmusa, member of the Bank of Latvia board and Lucrezia Reichlin, professor of the London School of Business. The participants shared their thoughts and ideas about issues regarding the euro area.
Euro Conference Latvia introduces the period from autumn of 2013 to January 2014, during which the Latvian public will receive detailed information about the changeover process and the euro banknotes and coins.
14.30–14.40 Welcome Address
Valdis Dombrovskis, Prime Minister, Republic of Latvia
14.40–15.30 Policy Discussion
Moderator: Pauls Raudseps, journalist
14.40–14.55 Mario Draghi, President, European Central Bank
14.55–15.10 Olli Rehn, Vice-President, Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, European Commission
15.10–15.20 Andris Vilks, Minister of Finance, Republic of Latvia
15.20–15.30 Ilmārs Rimšēvičs, Governor, Bank of Latvia
15.30–15.40 Handover of the Euro Star
16.00–16.30 Press Conference
15.45–17.00 Panel discussion "The Euro: Past, Present, Future"
Moderator: Baiba Rubesa, governance consultant
Yves Bertoncini, Director, Notre Europe – Jacques Delors Institute
Henrik Enderlein, Professor of Political Economy, Hertie School of Governance
Zoja Razmusa, Member of Council, Bank of Latvia
Lucrezia Reichlin, Professor of Economics, London Business School
Press accreditation applications for the conference should be sent to pressoffice [at] bank [dot] lv until 10 September by the end of the business day.