Citing higher than expected inflation figures, the government of Estonia has decided to put off the country's joining the euro zone by one year, to 1 January 2008. On 26 April, the Central Bank of Estonia, Eesti Pank, released its latest inflationary projection for 2006, which increased the previous figure from 3.2% to 4.4%. The ceiling set by the Stability and Growth Pact is currently at 3%. According to Estonian officials, the criteria for joining the euro zone could be met by the second quarter of 2007, which would enable the country to adopt the common European currency in 2008. The government will adjust its National Changeover Plan accordingly.
Meanwhile, Lithuania, which also has registered inflation slightly above the euro zone requirement, is preparing to call on the next EU summit in June 2006 to discuss and evaluate the country's state of preparedness for the common currency. In the words of Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas, "we are convinced that we reached the level necessary for all the criteria." Vilnius has been planning to join the euro zone in 2007.
According to EU rules, the inflation rate of the new euro zone entrants must be within 1.5% of the average of the three EU countries with the lowest rates. For now, Slovenia appears to be the only country that could join the euro zone in January 2007.