Next year it’s Latvia’s turn to join eurozone, as starting from 1 January 2014 Latvians will exchange their lats (current Latvian currency) to euros. Latvia’s road towards euro was not a smooth one – it was planned to adopt the euro on 1 January 2008, but for various reasons this was subsequently delayed several times.
And now we are there. But not everybody is happy, I would even say the majority of population is sceptical. And there are 2 main reasons for this: one is economical and the other one sentimental. For some months now the press in Latvia has been speculating about how this is a great opportunity for businesses to raise their prices, without customers noticing. And now people are worrying about how there will be an endless calculation going on in their mind, while shopping for everyday goods. Nevertheless, the fact that we are joining the eurozone means that economically country is going uphill – out budget deficit is diminishing, as well as inflation rates. But somehow this is not enough to reassure the population.
But I don’t want to talk only about the financial aspect, as it has a great sentimental value as well. Our currency has become a part of our identity and a symbol of freedom, as after all those years of occupation, we were able to get it back and now it feels like it has been taken away from us once again. I think it’s the bitter experience of the past that makes people feel so sentimental about this transition.
There have also been some discussion between linguists and population about the adaptation of term « euro » in Latvian. Some of linguists insisted on non-existing diphthong « eu » in Latvian, and proposed to use « ei » instead (as in « eiro »), but according to the European Central Bank, all languages should use the same spelling for the nominative singular (there have been some exceptions though, for example in Bulgarian due to the Cyrillic alphabet). So in Latvian officially it has to be spelled as « euro ». Nonetheless, in spoken language and unofficial publications « eiro » is being used as well.
Talking about our soon to be ex currency, I can’t go without mentioning the great tradition of releasing a special 1 lats coin every year. I have those nice memories about wondering, what kind of image they will be putting on the coin this year (and there is a great diversity of them and surprisingly a lot of things you don’t expect to see on a coin, as snowmen, ant, mushrooms, frog, hedgehog and many more), and then chasing them down with my father, who has a collection of every single one of them. And now this collection will stay as a sweet memory of the times when we had our own unique currency. But I still believe that change is for good! Well, at least I try..
Photo by Gatis Gribusts http://www.flickr.com/photos/gatiuss/