Cyprus and Malta adopt low inflation euro

NICOSIA, Jan 1, 2008 (AFP) – Cyprus and Malta joined the eurozone on Tuesday, bidding farewell to the Cyprus pound and Maltese lira, expanding the club of countries using the single European currency to 15. In Malta, central bank chief Michael Bonello voiced concern that people are hoarding the equivalent of about 466 million euros of a currency which risks becoming worthless unless converted. The eastern Mediterranean island adopted the euro one hour ahead of Malta to the west, less than four years after both states joined the 27-member bloc.

While Cyprus adopted a low-key approach, with President Tassos Papadopoulos making a symbolic withdrawal of euros from a finance ministry automatic teller machine, the smaller island of Malta welcomed the euro with a spectacular fireworks display.

As folk, pop and rock concerts were under way in Valletta’s Grand Harbour, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi withdrew the first euros from a cash distributor at the posh waterfront cruise liner terminal just after the stroke of midnight.

“This is the achievement of our target,” Gonzi said. “We are the smallest state, but we are as proud as the larger states” in the 27-member European Union.

“Tomorrow marks not