RIGA, Jan. 1 (Xinhhua) -- Tens of thousands of Latvians joyfully gathered along the Daugava river in the capital city of Riga at midnight Tuesday, biding farewell to 2013 and awaiting the advent of 2014 and the euro, a new currency introduced to the Baltic country.
From Jan. 1, 2014, Latvia officially joins the euro zone and becomes the 18th member of the single currency bloc.
Twenty-five minutes after midnight, acting Prime minister Valdis Dombrovskis withdrew the first euro banknote from an ATM, and presented it to people in the Republic Square coming to witness the historic moment.
He congratulated everyone on joining the eurozone and told them that it was an opportunity for the country's economic development as a member of the world's second largest currency, though it should not relax its fiscal policy.
"We should know how to use this opportunity in the best possible way so as to facilitate the economic and social development of Latvia," he said.
2014 is a historic year for Latvia after it made the important step in becoming the euro zone's 18th member, he added.
For Agris, an entrepreneur working at a construction field in Riga, joining the euro zone is a big opportunity for Latvia as well as for himself.
"I am supporting joining the euro zone. For business people like me, it means goods can be purchased in euros directly without additional fee on bank transcription, thus our currency exchange costs can be economized," said Agris.
"In addition, it is also good for the whole country as Latvian economy and the European economy will be organically integrated, and it will promote the development of Latvia," he told Xinhua.
But for Inga, an ordinary cleaning lady, joining the euro does not matter much.
"I am an ordinary person, no deposits, no property, no plans for traveling abroad, paying with lats or euros means all the same to me," she told Xinhua.
"The most important thing is the price. I only hope that after joining the euro zone, prices will not rise," she added.
After joining the European Union in 2004, Latvia took a long way to join the euro. In 2010, the Latvian government decided to enter the euro zone on Jan. 1, 2014.
However, the decision to join the euro was not supported by the majority of people at the beginning. On the one hand, the euro zone was in the middle of an economic recession in 2010. Many Latvians worried that the recession would drag their country into another economic crisis.
On the other hand, they feared that joining the euro will lead to inflation and prices will go up.
Nevertheless, the Latvian government applied for the euro zone membership in March 2013 and the European Union supported its application on condition that it will curb its inflation and debt level.
As the darkness of night gradually faded, dawn is coming quietly. People on the streets along the river are still immersed in the joy of happiness, praying that the euro can bring them good luck in the new year.
Latvia becomes 18th eurozone member
RIGA, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- Latvia joined the eurozone on Wednesday as its 18th member, when the New Year fireworks cracked in the sky at midnight in the Latvian capital of Riga.
As part of celebrations marking Latvia's entry into the single-currency bloc, Valdis Dombrovskis, Latvia's acting prime minister, withdrew a euro banknote from a bank machine. Full story