Cyprus applies to join euro

Cyprus applied Tuesday to join Europe's common currency, the euro, the European Commission confirmed.

"Cyprus has indeed sent in a request for us to look at whether they are ready to join the euro-zone," said EU spokeswoman Amelia Torres.

If Cyprus wins the EU all-clear to join next year, it would become the 14th of the EU's 27 nations to start using the currency.

Torres said the EU executive and the European Central Bank would report whether Cyprus met EU rules for euro economies by mid-May.

A final decision from EU leaders could be made in June, she said.

Nicosia said Tuesday that it fully meets euro standards, since its inflation at 2.2 percent in 2006 is close to the euro average.

EU economists last month praised Cyprus for its efforts to slash government debt, while advising it to carry out more pension and health care reforms because it could face serious problems from the cost of an aging population.

Cyprus joined the EU in May 2004, a month after the southern Greek Cypriot government voted against a United Nations plan that would have called for reunification with the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state in the north of the Mediterranean island.

Only one other country that joined the EU at the same time Slovenia has also adopted the euro. High inflation in Latvia and Lithuania, which joined the EU at the same time, forced the two Baltic states to delay plans to join the currency zone, reports AP.

The tiny island nation of Malta also plans to adopt the euro next year while Estonia is likely to delay membership as its growing economy sees inflation surge. Slovakia is scheduled to join in 2009.

Target dates for the larger recent EU members the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland are still up in the air.

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