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Fireworks and fear as Latvia joins euro zone

Published on Jan 1, 2014 5:59 AM
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Bar manager Krists Pumpitis loads a cash register with euro coins and banknotes in Riga on Dec 31, 2013. Latvia officially adopted the euro at the stroke of midnight local time, making the former Soviet state of two million people the 18th member of the crisis-hit euro zone. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

RIGA (AFP) - Latvia officially adopted the euro at the stroke of midnight local time, making the former Soviet state of two million people the 18th member of the crisis-hit euro zone.

As a huge firework display roared in Riga, the people of this Baltic state bade a reluctant farewell to their cherished lat – seen as a symbol of independence from the Soviet Union – to switch to the troubled European single currency.

Despite the fanfare, there is widespread unease here about joining a currency union that has seen five of its members forced into painful bailouts since a crippling crisis erupted in 2009.

According to a recent SKDS poll, half the population opposes the third currency switch in just over two decades, fearing price hikes and infuriated by the draconian austerity cuts made to get the country into the club.

 
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