Factbox: Where recent EU members stand on euro adoption

(BestGrowthStock) – The European Commission will issue a report on May 12 that analysts expect will approve Estonia’s bid to adopt the single currency in 2011.

But the crisis in the euro zone’s periphery could delay the entry of the rest of the European Union’s newcomers into the second half of the decade. Some politicians have raised doubts over whether it makes sense to join the bloc quickly.

There is also increasing scrutiny among euro zone politicians who, although expected to grudgingly let in Estonia because it meets the euro’s Maastricht treaty, are loathe to admit another country capable of a Greece-style fiscal meltdown.

POLAND

Poland’s center-right government had to abandon its 2012 target date for euro adoption after the global financial crisis hammered the economy and tax receipts and drove up its budget deficit to more than twice the 3 percent of gross domestic product ceiling allowed under the EU’s Maastricht Treaty.

Warsaw has not set a new entry target date. Officials and analysts say 2015 is now the earliest that Poland can hope to swap zlotys for euros.

Poland’s general government budget deficit is expected to stand at 7.3 percent of GDP this year, according to the European Commission, declining to 7 percent in 2011. Most analysts are skeptical of government plans to reduce the deficit to below 3 percent by 2012.

Poland still meets the Maastricht public debt requirement of below 60 percent of GDP, though it is slowly rising toward that level due to slower growth and higher public spending.

Under Poland’s own rules, breaching the 55 percent and 60 percent levels would trigger deep spending cuts that could hurt the government ahead of 2011 national elections.

Inflation stood at 2.6 percent in March and is expected to fall further in coming months.

Poland faces an additional challenge to its euro adoption plans on the political front, with the main opposition Law and Justice party opposing government efforts in parliament to make a necessary amendment to the constitution.

CZECH REPUBLIC

The country holds a May 28-29 election to vote in a successor to a caretaker cabinet that has led the country for the past year.

The leftist Social Democrats, ahead in the polls but not likely to win an outright majority, have said they plan to cut the budget deficit to below the EU-prescribed 3 percent of economic output by 2013 to be ready to adopt the currency by 2015-16.

The main rightist party, the Civic Democrats, has refrained from setting a firm date, but has said it wants the country to be ready for membership by 2015.

In February, the interim cabinet approved a plan that paved the way for euro adoption by 2016 or 2017.

Czech central bank Vice Governor Mojmir Hampl said this week the willingness to accept new euro zone member states was falling and an opinion poll showed 55 percent of Czechs were against adopting the euro, versus 47 percent a year ago.

At present, a budget deficit forecast at 5.3 percent of GDP this year remains the biggest economic obstacle to the Czechs’ joining the euro zone.

HUNGARY

Hungary wants to join the euro “as soon as possible” but it meets none of the criteria due to years of lax fiscal policies between 2002 and 2006 and a lack of sufficient reforms.

Before the financial crisis struck, markets put Hungary’s euro entry at 2013-2014 at the earliest; now it is seen in 2015.

Hungary has no official target date for euro adoption, but the incoming center-right government plans to set a target date by the end of 2011.

Overspending in the past decade forced the ruling Socialists to abandon euro entry target dates. Thanks to fiscal measures taken under an International Monetary Fund-led bailout by the Socialist government, Hungary has kept its budget deficit in check in the past years.

But the Fidesz party, which won elections in April, has said the 2010 budget deficit could hit 7-8 percent of GDP, eclipsing the 3.8 percent agreed with the IMF. It plans to renegotiate commitments to the IMF to cut the deficit to 3 percent of GDP next year.

Viktor Orban, the next prime minister, has said that his government would seek tax cuts to steer the economy back to growth, and measures to reduce debt.

ROMANIA

Romania targets 2014 as a deadline for admission to the euro zone, which would allow the country to use the common currency starting 2015. It plans to join the ERM-2 mechanism in 2012.

It is struggling to bring the budget deficit below the ceiling of 3 percent by 2012 from over 7 percent last year and is still fighting inflation, even though demand has fallen as a result of the global financial crisis.

It has pledged to slash the deficit to 5.9 percent of GDP this year as part of a 20 billion euro IMF-led bailout, but a source said this week it could push that target higher.

Some analysts say the interest rate criteria would also be difficult to achieve if inflation picks up when the economy recovers. Most economists say the 2014/2015 entry target is unrealistic.

BULGARIA

Bulgaria has no target date for euro zone entry but was aiming to apply this year to enter the pre-euro ERM-2 waiting room before revealing a hidden budget deficit in April, which hit the credibility of the EU’s poorest nation and revived concerns about fiscal transparency in the region.

Since then the country’s finance minister has insisted Bulgaria is pushing ahead with efforts to join the euro and could still apply to ERM-2 this year, though most economists say this is not a realistic possibility.

Its lev currency is pegged to the euro.

BALTIC STATES

The former-Soviet republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia had to put off their original euro adoption goals of 2007 or 2008 after their economies overheated in the wake of EU entry and inflation soared.

The plans were then further hit by the economic crisis, which pushed up budget deficits and dragged them into deep recessions.

Throughout the overheating and subsequent hard landing they kept their currencies pegged to the euro. Estonia now hopes to adopt the single currency in 2011 after it used financial reserves built up during the booms years as a buffer, allowing it to keep its public sector deficit under 3 percent of GDP.

Inflation is also looking tame. The other two Baltic states are aiming for euro adoption in 2014, but this depends on further cuts to spending and tax rises to reduce public sector deficits.

Latvia, which had to resort to international aid to keep its budget afloat, approved severe spending cuts in 2009 and 2010 equal to about 10 percent of GDP.

It will have to take more measures to reduce its public sector deficit to 3 percent of GDP by 2012 ahead of hoped for euro adoption in 2014.

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(Reporting by CEE bureaus; compiled by Michael Winfrey)

Factbox: Where recent EU members stand on euro adoption