Finance ministers of the European Union (EU) meeting in Luxembourg on Wednesday gave their backing to Slovenia's bid to join the euro zone next year but still kept another hopeful Lithuania outside.
"We are very pleased that Slovenia has fulfilled the conditions for becoming the 13th member of the euro zone," said Austrian Finance Minister Karl-Heinz Grasser, whose country holds the current EU presidency.
The European Commission (EC), the EU's executive arm, recommended last month that Slovenia could join the euro zone because it had met the criteria laid out in the Maastricht treaty, paving the way for the former Yugoslav country to join the current 12-nation currency club on January 1, 2007.
But the commission at the same time held off approving Lithuania for the euro next year because inflation had overshot the limit required to join. "Lithuania does not fulfill the price stability criteria in a sustainable fashion," Grasser said.
According to the commission, the average inflation rate in Lithuania during the 12 months to March 2006 was 2.7 percent, just above a 2.6 percent guideline, and is expected to soon reach 3.5 percent.
A final decision is to be made by the EU finance ministers next week and handed to the EU leaders for endorsement when they meet on June 15-16 in Brussels.