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Europe

European bank chief says eurozone can grow, with Estonia first

As Estonia moves closer to joining the euro, president of the European Central Bank Jean Claude Trichet says that the currency area can be further expanded. However, he said, rules must be strictly observed.

Jean-Claude Trichet

Trichet said that the new eurozone members must comply convicingly with rules

European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet has hailed the efforts of Estonia in edging closer to joining the eurozone.

Trichet said on Monday that the fact that the Baltic state had qualified showed that the currency bloc still had room to expand, despite recent concerns over the integrity of the currency.

Estonia is due to become the eurozone's 17th member on January 1. Trichet said this showed that "that the euro area is not a 'closed shop' but is open to those countries and economies that are fully compliant with the entry criteria in a convincing and sustainable manner."

euro coins and notes

The euro will be circulate alongside the kroon for two weeks

Trichet used an address in the Estonian capital Tallinn to repeat calls to strengthen the eurozone's foundations and avoid the possibility of a new sovereign debt crisis, similar to that in Greece earlier this year.

"The success of the euro depends on all euro area countries seriously engaging with the responsibilities that go hand in hand with the considerable benefits that euro area membership offers," Trichet said.

Prices in Estonia are already being displayed in euros as well as Estonian kroons and there will be a two week period of dual circulation before the kroon ceases to become legal tender.

Although the EU has approved a rescue fund for European states in danger of a debt crisis - worth 440 billion euros ($575 billion) - there are fresh fears about high levels of borrowing in Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Author: Richard Connor (dpa/AFP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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