Estonia Prepares to Embrace the Euro

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The Baltic nation of Estonia was preparing Friday to become the first former Soviet republic to join the eurozone, giving a vote of confidence to European nations worried about the euro's future.

The stroke of midnight Friday was set to mark the changeover from the Estonian kroon and make it the the eurozone's seventeenth member.

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Estonia's government pitched the move as a bid to to boost the small nation's economy and strengthen its standing in the western world. But it comes as the economic group appeared to be reaching crisis point.

Ordinary Estonians were shaken by news that Greece and Ireland needed emergency bailouts earlier this year, and opinion polls in the country have showed only 54 percent of people favored joining the euro.

Despite their concerns, Finance Minister Jurgen Ligi previously said Tallinn was willing to contribute financially “to keep the eurozone stable and the European Union healthy.”

Maerten Ross, deputy governor of the national bank Eesti Pank, said, “We don’t see an alternative to joining the euro ... Problems should be solved, not used as an argument against our long-term interests.”

There was also a political subtext for people who lived under Soviet dictatorship joining the group. "If it’s not a geopolitical decision, then it’s definitely a political one,” Ross said. “We are becoming part of core Europe, fully fledged members of the European Union.”

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