ECONOMY

New-look euro coins on the way

LUXEMBOURG (AP) – The European Union will redesign the euro coins to reflect the bloc’s massive eastward expansion last year when it absorbed 10 nations that are not depicted on the map of Europe shown on the current coins. Euro notes show a map of the 25-nation EU, but coins only the 15 nations that formed the bloc up to May 1, 2004, when Cyprus, Malta and eight East European nations joined. The EU finance ministers agreed that future coins should either show a larger Europe or another common symbol reflecting a bigger EU. EU Finance Commissioner Pedro Solbes will make design recommendations next month. Officials gave no date for the introduction of the new-look euro coins. Solbes was also asked to look into diverging eurozone growth data in the first quarter, when Germany posted its strongest growth in four years while Italy slipped into recession and the Dutch economy also shrank. «We are seriously concerned about this,» Juncker told a news conference. «We must pay greater attention to divergences in the eurozone» that comprises 12 of the 25 EU nations, he added. He said the first-quarter eurozone results were not negative across the board and showed that «in spite of the economic difficulties, we should continue structural reforms» to trigger growth and safeguard pensions and other benefits for a fast graying EU population. In the first quarter, Germany’s posted a 1 percent growth rate, breaking out of the 0.1 contraction of the last quarter of 2004, while Italy’s economy shrank by 0.5 percent in the first quarter. Last year, Estonia, Slovenia and Lithuania joined the EU’s Exchange Rate Mechanism, which limits their currency fluctuations and is a waiting room for euro membership. This year, Latvia, Malta and Cyprus joined the ERM. Under EU rules, countries must spend at least two years in the ERM before they can join the euro if they have a budget deficit not exceeding 3 percent of gross domestic product and a total debt burden of not more than 60 percent of GDP.