© Reuters/Ints Kalnins
Latvia's central bank governor Ilmars Rimsevics (L-R), Estonia's Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, Latvia's Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis and Latvia's Minister of Finance Andris Vilks, pose with euro banknotes during an official event in Riga January 1, 2014.
Latvia has celebrated the New Year by joining the eurozone, becoming the 18th member of the Europe-wide currency bloc. However, recent opinion polls show that a majority of Latvians oppose the move, with just one-fifth strongly in favor.
The euro switchover ceremony took place Jan. 1 at the HQ of the state-owned Citatele Bank - the lender reconstituted from the collapsed Parex Bank, where Latvia's worst 2008-10 economic crisis began.
"It's a big opportunity for Latvia's economic development," said the country's acting prime minister, Valdis Dombrovskis, withdrawing the first 10-euro banknote from an ATM in Riga, Latvia's capital.
But Dombrovskis, who led Latvia through its economic crisis, warned that joining the euro was an opportunity, but not a guarantee of wealth. "It's not an excuse not to pursue a responsible fiscal and macroeconomic policy," he said.
EU policymakers congratulated Latvia's on its accession to the eurozone.
"For Latvia, it is the result of impressive efforts and the unwavering determination of the authorities and the Latvian people," European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said. "Latvia will enter the euro area stronger than ever, sending an encouraging message to other countries undergoing a difficult economic adjustment."