Bratislava: Slovak banks did brisk business as they opened on New Year’s Day for a very special occasion - issuing euros to citizens eager to get their hands on the country’s new currency.
The small alpine nation on Thursday became the 16th country to adopt the European Union’s euro - a currency that also celebrated its 10th birthday this New Year’s Day. With the addition of Slovakia, the euro currency will be used by 330 million people with an annual gross domestic product of more than 4 trillion euros ($5.6 trillion).
The decision by this country of 5.4 million people to join the eurozone and abandon the Slovak koruna appears even wiser now amid the global financial crisis, as other European countries have seen their currencies severely buffeted.
‘‘I congratulate Slovakia and warmly welcome all its citizens to the euro area,’’ said EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
‘‘The euro will help Slovakia to take part in, and benefit from, Europe’s collective effort to recover from the current economic crisis.
‘‘But the euro is more than just money. On this historic New Year’s Day, Slovakia is a powerful symbol of economic and political progress and of European integration.’’
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s comments were tinged with nostalgia.
‘‘We’re saying goodbye to the Slovak currency that meant so much to us,’’ he said. ‘‘Part of us, the Slovak identity, is leaving.’’