BRUSSELS - Croatia is ready to join the euro zone, the European Commission said on Wednesday, paving the way for the Balkan country to adopt the euro from the start of 2023 and become the 20th European state to use the currency.
Once the Commission's assessment is approved by EU leaders in June, EU finance ministers will set in July the exchange rate at which Croatia's currency, the kuna, will be converted into the euro on Jan. 1, 2023.
Croatia will then have six months for practical preparations for the currency switch.
"Today, the European Commission has concluded that Croatia is ready to adopt the euro on 1 January 2023, bringing the number of euro area Member States to twenty," the EU executive arm said in a statement.
To adopt the euro, Croatia, a member of the EU since 2013, had to fulfil criteria of price and exchange rate stability, budget deficit and public debt and long-term interest rates, all measured against EU benchmarks.
The Commission also examined its economic integration and convergence with the rest of the euro zone, including balance of payments trends and the integration of its product, labour and financial markets and verified that its central bank laws are compatible with euro zone laws on the European Central Bank.
(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski)