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Estonia to join Eurozone

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Estonia is the 17th nation to adopt the euro
  • The former Soviet republic's old currency is the kroon
  • Estonians have been exchanging kroons for euros since December 1

London (CNN) -- Estonia becomes the newest member of the Eurozone Saturday as it adopts the euro as its official currency when the clock rings out 2010.

"Estonia's entry means that over 330 million Europeans now carry euro notes and coins in their pockets," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. "It is a strong signal of the attraction and stability that the euro brings to member states of the European Union."

"The single currency will provide a stable framework for the Estonian economy, which together with sound fiscal and macro-economic polices will create the basis for economic prosperity," said Olli Rehn, European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, said Friday.

Estonian bank branches have been exchanging the old currency -- the kroon -- to euros free of charge for the past month at a conversion rate of one euro for every 15.6466 kroons. The exchange will continue until June 30 and then at more limited branches until the end of next year.

The Estonian Central Bank, however, will exchanges kroons for euros for an unlimited time period.

The impending change sent many Estonians rushing to the bank, creating long queues all month with the average wait time increasing from 6 to 20 minutes, Ola Kallemur, the bank's press officer, said. Kallemur added that almost half of Estonian people and businesses have already switched to euros.

Estonia, a former Soviet republic, is the 17th nation to adopt the euro.