The EU Commission recommends Croatia's admission to the euro area on January 1, 2023. In its convergence report published on Wednesday, the Brussels authorities - like the European Central Bank in parallel - come to the conclusion that the country fulfills all the convergence criteria that are a prerequisite for accession to monetary union.

If the competent EU bodies follow the Commission's recommendation, Croatia would be the first member state since Lithuania in 2015 to join the euro area.

The number of members of the monetary union then increased to 20. The recommendation also means that Croatia will overtake Bulgaria.

Both countries were included in the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) II in 2020, the so-called “courtyard” of monetary union.

As early as 2018, the government in Sofia had filed claims for quick accession to the euro area.

The Commission does not recommend this, however.

Werner Mussler

Business correspondent in Brussels.

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The EU finance ministers will make the final decision on the expansion of the euro area in July.

Before that, the Eurogroup and the EU heads of state and government will deal with it;

the ECB and the European Parliament also issue statements.

However, the Commission's recommendation can be regarded as a preliminary decision.

economic prerequisites

In the convergence reports published every two years by the Commission and the ECB, it is examined whether the previous non-members meet the economic requirements for joining the euro in monetary union.

The criteria for this can be found in the Maastricht Treaty and relate to price stability, solid state finances, a close exchange rate link between the national currency and the euro rate, long-term interest rates and certain legal convergence criteria.

In addition to Bulgaria and Croatia, the Commission and the ECB also examined Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania and Sweden.

The Scandinavian country does not want to join at the moment, and there is no longing for the euro in the other four Central and Eastern European countries either.

Denmark is completely exempt from the test.

Croatia is one of 10 EU countries which, according to the Commission's latest spring forecast, will fall below the Maastricht reference value for new debt of 3 percent of economic output this year and next.

With a view to the debt ratio of (75.3 and 73.1 percent), the country is above the Maastricht targets.

Last week, the EU Commission decreed that the EU stability pact would remain suspended in 2023.

Because no new deficit procedures were opened as a result, the Commission now judges that all the countries examined, with the exception of Romania, have met the Maastricht budgetary targets.

A deficit procedure had already been opened against the country before the outbreak of the corona pandemic (and thus before the pact was suspended).

The criterion for price stability – the inflation rate must not be more than 1.5 percentage points above that of the three most price-stable EU member states – was only met by Croatia and Sweden.

In addition to Croatia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Sweden also met the criterion of equalized long-term interest rates in the euro zone.

There are two reasons why the authority does not recommend Bulgarian accession.

On the one hand, the country does not meet the price stability criterion with an inflation rate of 2.7 percent last year.

On the other hand, Bulgaria continues to have problems with the requirement of the EU treaties to harmonize national law, including the statute of the central bank, with EU law.

Bulgaria continues to be accused of doing too little against corruption and suffering from a poorly functioning rule of law.