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Cyprus and Malta join eurozone - 03/01/2008

Cyprus and Malta adopt the euro

New coins and banknotes for the people of Cyprus and Malta as the two countries become the newest members of the eurozone.

Cyprus and Malta are next up to reap the benefits of the euro – smoother business operations and easier travel to name just two. On 1 January, the Cypriot pound was converted at a rate of 0.585 to one euro and the Maltese lira at 0.429.

So it’s time for people in these two countries to empty their piggybanks and jam jars and dig out any spare cash they may have stashed away for a rainy day. There will be a period of grace during which central banks will exchange both currencies free of charge – two years for coins and ten for banknotes.

To make the changeover as smooth as possible,  prices will be displayed in both euro and the old currency until 30 September 2008, euro starter kits are available and special websites have been set up for both the Cypriots and the Maltese.

On the aesthetic side, Europeans everywhere can start looking out for the Cypriot mouflon sheep and the prehistoric Maltese Mnajdra temple on 1, 2 and 5 cent coins, as well as the Kyrenia ship and emblem of Malta on 10, 20 and 50 cent coins. A prehistoric, cross-shaped idol will figure on Cyprus’ 1 and 2 euro coins and an eight-pointed Maltese Cross for Malta.

The 200 million Maltese euro coins are minted by the Monnaie de Paris and the 395 million Cypriot euro coins (with a value of €100.26m) by the Finnish Mint. An estimated 80 million euro notes have been produced for Malta and 79 million for Cyprus.

To allay fears of price rises during the changeover period, a number of initiatives have been launched to empower consumers and prevent retailers from opportunistic exploitation. Under the FAIR (Fair-pricing Agreements in Retailing) initiative, 5 000 Maltese businesses have so far pledged not to increase their prices and to correctly display dual prices. And one price-watch exercise will entail anonymous ‘mystery shopping’ to root out cases of malpractice, with results presented by sector of activity.

These two new arrivals bring the number of eurozone members to 15. The only one of the other countries that joined the EU in 2004 to have adopted the euro is Slovenia. Next up is most likely to be Slovakia in 2009.

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