Slovakia’s historic achievement
Slovakia’s adoption of the single European currency on 1 January 2009 cannot be described as anything but an immense historic achievement for the entire country and all of its people. The exceptional nature of this achievement renders any modesty inappropriate. Our country has actually come to the end of a difficult path strewn with extremely tough obstacles, and the journey has been crowned with resounding success. The credit goes not only to the government, the central bank and European institutions – a major part of this achievement can be attributed to the thousands of people who were tasked with preparing dozens of institutions, public or private, for the euro changeover.
As Minister of Finance of the Slovak government, I am immensely proud of the fact that I had the opportunity to take part in this process and attend the key negotiations in Brussels where we heard the long-awaited and well-deserved verdict – Slovakia being given the ‘go-ahead’ to join the euro area.
These days, the euro is by far the hottest issue in my country – people are growing accustomed, step by step, to new banknotes and coins, and to new amounts on pricetags and payroll slips which are figures 30 times lower than those they have been familiar with for years. It is still too early to say that Slovaks already identify with the euro and have adapted to it. However, I am convinced that in a few weeks’ time, or in a few months at most, I will be able to confidently make such a statement – as did my counterparts in the 15 countries which to date have been using the euro with great success.
|The euro: a vehicle for economic growth in Slovakia|
However, under this celebratory headline I also wish to strike a serious note. On various occasions at home I reiterated many times – and wish to stress the same again now – that the euro changeover is not the ultimate goal for the Slovak government, not a finishing line that would reduce the need to keep pursuing a responsible economic policy. Quite the contrary – for us, the euro is a vehicle, or a key, which will allow our economy to advance as fast as possible even amidst the current severe global crisis. We are very well aware of our responsibility. Once our independent national monetary policy ceases to exist, our role will be clear – albeit not at all simple: through the application of a prudent and very flexible economic policy we need to make sure that our country will not be, even slightly, affected by the fact that we have abandoned our national monetary instruments. And we must ensure that our economy preserves its healthy development and best performance even after joining the monetary union. In my opinion, Slovakia’s results achieved over the past few years clearly attest to the fact that this task and goal are by no means beyond our reach.
To conclude, I would like to avail myself, through this magazine, of the opportunity to thank all our foreign partners who supported us in the accession process – not only the European Commission and the European Central Bank, but also the individual countries of the euro area, their governments and their individual central banks. We are pleased to have joined the euro club, and we are already doing our best to contribute considerably.