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Page last updated at 12:26 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 13:26 UK

Slovakia given euro green light

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico
Mr Fico said that joining the euro was a great opportunity

Four years after joining the European Union, Slovakia has been told it is ready to join the euro in January 2009.

The European Central Bank said Slovakia had met the necessary benchmarks, but expressed concern about inflation.

A final decision on Slovakia's candidacy will be made by EU finance ministers and political leaders.

It is only the second former communist country after Slovenia to pass the euro's strict criteria and is likely to be the last for some time.

Poland, Hungary and the Baltic states are not expected to join the euro until well after 2010.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico hailed the announcement as a "great opportunity".

"We consider the adoption of the euro to be the continuation of the success story that began with the entry into the European Union," he said.

Slovakia's economic success stems from a flat tax rate and a clamp-down on abuse of its welfare system. In 2007, its economy grew by more than 10%.

The European Central Bank said that strong economic growth would bring improved living standards but also higher price levels.


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