The Valletta Waterfront was a hive of activity on New Year’s Eve as Malta reached its biggest objective after joining the European Union in 2004 – the adoption of the euro, the single European currency.
The introduction of the euro to replace the Maltese lira is one of Malta’s biggest achievements since it became an EU Member State. Achieving this goal was not easy because Malta had to adhere to a number of strict conditions, mainly restoring health to the country’s finances. Malta is the smallest EU member state and has now also adopted one of the most important currency in the world.
The celebrations were concentrated in Valletta, the capital city, which also attracted celebrations when Malta joined the EU in 2004. Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi, accompanied by his wife Kate, was the first to withdraw money from an ATM at the Valletta Waterfront as champagne flowed freely and fireworks brightened the cloudy skies.
Parliamentary Secretary Tonio Fenech, Central Bank Governor Michael Bonello and Deputy Prime Minister Tonio Borg also withdrew euro notes.
Around 1,400 people packed the main hall of the Mediterranean Conference Centre and many others attended the concerts by local bands and artists, as well a party at the Powerhouse, along the Waterfront.
The cold weather and the showers kept people inside with only the brave venturing outside in such weather conditions.
The euro replaced the Maltese lira that was introduced in May 1972, abandoning the British system of pounds, shillings and pence. The Maltese pound was renamed the Maltese lira in 1983.
Malta set 1st January 2008 as the target date to adopt the euro in November 2004, just a few months after joining the EU. A year after becoming EU member states, in May 2005, Malta joined the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II).
In January 2006, the government set up the National Euro Changeover Committee in order to ensure a smooth transition from the Maltese lira to the euro. In May 2007, the European Commission issued a report on Malta and recommended that, in view of the improvements in the country’s finances, it could join the eurozone in January 2008.