Malta, Cyprus to go Euro on January 1

VALLETTA, Dec 27, 2007 (AFP) – The tiny Mediterranean island nations of Cyprus and Malta join the eurozone on January 1, turning the single-currency area from a 13-country zone into a club of 15. Large companies will take the change in their stride, said Gordon Cordina, advisor of Malta’s employers’ federation. “For a small open economy like ours, it’s a necessary change.” “The systems are in place, everyone is ready for the euro and the new currency is gaining in popularity,” Maltese Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi told AFP.

Both have earned high marks from the European Commission late last month for their preparations, aimed primarily at attracting new investment.

Cyprus joins the zone at 2200 GMT on December 31, while Malta enters an hour later.

They will become the 14th and 15th eurozone members following Slovenia’s entry in January 2007, taking membership of the eurozone to just over half of the 27 countries in the European Union. Many recent entrants to the EU do not yet satisfy the qualifying economic criteria for adoption of the euro, and three older members, Britain, Denmark and Sweden, have stayed out for the time being.

To qualify to use the euro, a country must harmon