The conference, focusing on the introduction of the euro as the official currency in Croatia, was organised by the students’ association Financial Club.
Croatian National Bank (HNB) Governor Boris Vujčić said in his opening remarks that Croatia cannot enter the euro zone before 1 January 2023.
“Whether Croatia will enter the euro area on 1 January 2023 or a year or two later, depends on when it will meet the nominal convergence criteria,” said Vujčić, recalling that in July 2020, Croatia entered the European Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERM II), a sort of waiting room for the euro.
He explained that the ERM II envisaged a minimum two years of participation in it so that a candidate aspiring to join the euro area can meet the nominal convergence criteria (Maastricht criteria). On the other hand, if it does not satisfy the criteria, which refer to the stability of the exchange rate, prices and interest rates, the budget deficit and the level of foreign debt, a country can remain in the ERM II indefinitely, Vujčić said.
He recalled a survey indicating that citizens fear that with the introduction of the euro the standard of living will deteriorate and prices will increase. However, surveys in countries that have already introduced the euro indicate that prices increased by 0.23 percentage points on average in the year when the euro was introduced, mostly for everyday goods such as coffee. Prices of such products are relatively lower so their increase could have been relatively high due to rounding off.
“That left the impression in public that prices increased more than they did,” explained Vujčić, underscoring that the standard of living did not fall in any country that introduced the euro but rather it improved.
Ćorić: Biggest advantage to companies exporting to euro area
Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Tomislav Ćorić said that it was clear that citizens would not start living better on the first day of introducing the euro, however, what points to better prospects was the fact that the macro environment in the euro area was free of risks that non-member countries were faced with.
The risk premium in all countries that entered the euro area has dropped, said Ćorić, noting that that was something that in normal circumstances should bring benefits to Croatia, such as reducing yields on long-term security instruments and lower interest rates on commercial and consumer loans.
Considering, however, that we live in “fairly radical economic times,” and a period of very low interest rates, the effects which countries that entered the euro area some ten years ago had would be somewhat lower, however, they would still be significant, he said.
The advantages are potentially biggest for export-oriented companies considering that the exchange rate risk will be eliminated, he said.
Ćorić said that the project for euro introduction was not an end in itself but was primarily a very good tool for Croatia’s long-term economic growth and development.
Mačkić: Flexibility of labour market, final goods and services market
President Zoran Milanovic’s economic adviser, Velibor Mačkić, conveyed the president’s message saying that it was necessary to discuss the benefits and potential harm of Croatia joining the euro area.
Mačkić believes that Croatia has not developed its own institutions sufficiently and that that poses a problem. “The country needs a different economy, a much more flexible economy, to be able to benefit more significantly from the monetary union,” said Mačkić.
He added that the labour market and the market of final products and services need to be more flexible.
Mačkić underlined the importance of an efficient fiscal policy and of the reform of the tax system which Mačkić believes needs to change from “a consumption-based to income-based tax system.”
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