The Slovak Spectator spoke to former government plenipotentiary for the adoption of the euro Igor Barát about Slovakia’s first year living with the new currency.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): How has Slovakia come to terms with the adoption of the euro?
Igor Barát (IB): Slovakia has adopted the euro with admirable ease and without problems. No systemic problems or complications have emerged. The available surveys show that even the subjective perception of the switch to the euro is significantly positive, which make Slovakia an exception [among countries which have adopted the currency].
TSS: What have been the greatest challenges and the most difficult aspects of the process?
IB: There have certainly been numerous challenges and I would find it difficult to name them all so I will list only the most significant ones: first of all meeting the Maastricht criteria, which required keeping inflation and the public finance deficit low. It also was extremely difficult technically to secure the minting and distribution of coins, and bringing in and distributing the bank notes along with setting all the banking and other information systems.
The information campaign itself wasn’t an easy task either; not as much the technical aspect, but rather the fact that it was necessary to challenge many myths and beliefs germinating from fear of the unknown, for example of price hikes, psychological shocks, etc., which people believed would threaten Slovakia but none of which actually materialised. But we had these issues on the table on a daily basis and had to continuously and patiently explain them.
TSS: Which are the problems and difficulties that still prevail in association with the adoption of the euro?
IB: Based on the information I have there are no problems or difficulties. There are some topics that are being kept alive artificially by the media, for example the small cent coins or the continuation of dual display [pricing, in euros and Slovak crowns]. None of them presents a real problem in practice.
TSS: For which population group has it been most difficult to accept the new currency?
IB: I do not have any information that anyone has had difficulty with switching to the new currency.
TSS: According to a recent survey, seven out of ten Slovaks would like to see dual display pricing remain in place. What is your response to that?
IB: According to a different survey 99 percent of people would like, for example, to be relieved of the obligation to pay taxes [laughs]. The survey question itself is suggestive and the result does not deliver much. People would certainly like to have on the tags also prices in US dollars, Czech crowns, Hungarian forints, and Polish zloty so that it would be even easier to compare. Anyway, this past Saturday in Austria I was given a ski pass and the price was indicated in Austrian schillings – this is eight years after Austria adopted the euro. While it is of course no longer obligatory, anyone can continue the dual display as long as they wish.
But if our people are able to do their shopping in the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and anywhere else in the world in the local currencies and are able to derive from the often very complicated calculations the price quite intelligibly, I do not see any reason why they should not be able to do so at home. I do not know anyone who today would not understand values in euros. And even if they do not exactly understand, the longer they have help in the form of conversion to Slovak crowns the longer they will take to get used to the euro. But really, it is an insignificant topic. I am 100-percent sure that no customer would leave a store and go to a competitor only because he does not find price tags with dual display while the competitor has them.
11. Jan 2010 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová