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Slovenia's countdown to the euro

21 December 2006

With only ten days to go before Slovenia adopts the euro, the final practical changeover preparations are well under way and everybody, from the banks to the retail sector and consumers themselves, seems to be ready. Commercial banks and retailers have received, or are about to, euro banknotes and coins and since last week households have also been able to procure themselves 'mini-kits' to familiarise themselves with the euro.

Slovenia will adopt the euro on the 1st of January 2007 at the rate of 239.640 tolars per euro. It will join the 12 European Union countries that adopted the single currency in 1999 (2001 for Greece) first as scriptural or 'book' money and, as from 2002, in the form of coins and banknotes.

As a result, the euro area will have a population of 316.6 million, including 2.0 million Slovenians. The last practical preparations for the introduction of the euro in Slovenia are proceeding well and according to the national changeover plan.

As was done in 2002 and in accordance with the Slovenian euro changeover plan, commercial banks in Slovenia started receiving euro banknotes in early December (the so-called frontloading operation) and, in turn, begun supplying retailers (sub-frontloading) in order for them to be able to operate in euros from the 1st of January .

The same happened with coins, 296 million of which were ordered from the Finnish mint by the Slovenian government. The central bank started shipping the coins to commercial banks as from mid-September and the latter also recently begun supplying retailers, according to their stated needs or, in the case of small shops, in the form of pre-packed starter-kits for their initial needs. Some 150,000 such pre-packed kits have been prepared.

Consumers themselves have been able to get 'mini- kits' from commercial banks. The kits typically contain several of the eight coin denominations from the 1-cent to the 2-euro coin, worth 12.52. A total of 450,000 mini-kits have been prepared.

This means that from the 1st of January, Slovenians will be able to pay in euros or in tolars and receive the change in euros. This period during which the euro and the tolar will both be legal tender (so-called dual circulation period) will end on January 14. As from 15 January 2007 only euro cash will have the status of legal tender in Slovenia. However, it will still be possible to exchange tolars free of charge afterwards.

Consumers also appear to be adhering to a campaign, launched by Slovenian banks beginning of December, for them to deposit tolar cash in their accounts at the euro conversion rate and free of charge, so as to reduce the backflow of tolar banknotes and coins in January.

Slovenian companies are confident that the changeover will be a smooth operation for them and for consumers. More than 97% of the businesses polled mid-November in a flash Eurobarometer survey expect their accounting, invoicing and payroll systems to be fully ready for switching to the euro. About 95% of them also say they have received sufficient information on the euro and the changeover process. It must be noted that most of them (60%) started preparations already in the first half of 2006 or earlier, while 33% did so after July 2006.

Significantly, the large majority (93%) also say that they have no intention to raise their prices on the occasion of the changeover.

Regrettably, almost 7% admitted to plan to adjust prices upwards. This is particularly the case among hotels and restaurants.

The Slovenian government has recently adopted a commitment for preventing unjustified price rises and recommended consumers to remain vigilant towards such unfair practices and has argued against unjustified price increases. Local authorities have been invited to set the example and not increase prices, fees or taxes for public services during the changeover period. A similar commitment is expected from the private sector, notably from retailers.

The Slovenian Consumers' Association is monitoring the prices of specific goods and services under its 'Pricewatch' project and has started to denounce any excessive price rises.

But consumers themselves must be on the alert during the changeover period, check the conversion price, be careful with their change and protest when faced with unfair pricing practices such as the ones anticipated in a few sectors. An overwhelming majority of Slovenians are happy or even very happy to adopt the euro (72%, according to the September Eurobaromater survey). But they have a role to play in ensuring that this feel-good factor is not spoiled by a less than impeccable behaviour.

Dual display of prices in euros and in tolars is compulsory since March 2006, which should help consumers getting used to the new scale of values, especially since July when the conversion rate was irrevocably fixed by the ECOFIN ministers, and be able to detect abuses when they occur.

Source: European Commission