In his State of the Union speech earlier this month, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, argued that the eurozone’s expansion to include Latvia in 2014 was a positive sign that progress has been made in tackling the economic crisis:
[Last year, some people] feared the disintegration of the euro area. Now, we can give a clear reply to those fears: no one has left or has been forced to leave the euro. This year, the European Union enlarged from 27 to 28 member states. Next year the euro area will grow from 17 to 18.
Indeed, despite repeated predictions of its imminent demise, the euro has proved doggedly resilient. Greece has clung on (though talks of a third bailout are currently ongoing), and Estonia joined on 1 January 2011, becoming the first former-Soviet republic to adopt the Single Currency. In last week’s Citizens’ Dialogue in Tallinn, the Commissioner for the Euro, Olli Rehn, gave his strongest statement yet that the European economy was finally headed in the right direction:
We have green shoots now in the European economy. They are still very green and very fragile. This year, we expect that the European economy will continue to stabilise and return to recovery. And, next year, the European economy will stand on firmer economic footing and we will have better economic growth next year, and we will see better return to employment next year…
But what do the citizens of Estonia think about the euro? Latvia, which will adopt the euro next year, will be keen to see if their neighbour’s experience with the new currency has been a positive one. Our infographic below presents some of the facts and figures about public opinion in Estonia before and after the introduction of the euro, but the data is rather inconclusive.
Broadly speaking, public opinion is more undecided now than it was before the euro was introduced. Whilst less Estonians feel negative about the euro today, a greater proportion of people now say they “don’t know” whether the euro has been good or bad for Estonia. Interestingly, though, half of people polled thought there was “not enough” economic coordination in the euro area, suggesting that Estonians would be happy to see greater economic integration.