SOFIA, June 2 (Reuters) - Bulgaria has a long way to go before it is ready to adopt the euro, but allowing Sofia into the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM-2) will be an acknowledgment of the Balkan country’s reform efforts, its finance minister said on Friday. The Balkan country joined the European Union in 2007 and while meets the nominal criteria to join the euro zone, it needs to reform its small economy and uproot graft to bring its low living standards closer to its wealthier EU peers.
Bulgaria does not have a target date for euro adoption, but has stepped up its efforts to convince its EU partners it should be allowed to join the ERM-2 currency grid, commonly known as the euro’s “waiting room”.
Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov told an economic forum in Sofia that Bulgaria, which has its lev currency pegged to the euro, can only benefit from joining the ERM-2 and the euro zone itself.
“We will strive to convince our partners that we still have a long way to go, but, joining the ERM would be a good assessment of the efforts the Bulgarian society is making and the confidence it has in the common European idea.”
Bulgaria has relatively low inflation, a small fiscal deficit and one of the EU’s lowest public debt levels.
But its living standards are less than half of the EU average, when calculated as gross domestic product per capita and Sofia has yet to prove it is serious about combating graft and putting high level corrupt officials behind bars.
Goranov said countries should not be allowed to adopt the euro on political grounds, but stressed that a political debate was needed on how to strengthen and further expand the euro zone in the wake of Brexit.
Speaking at the same forum, European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said the EU’s executive will support Bulgaria’s efforts towards adopting the common currency, but outlined the need for more reforms.
“Member states need to fulfil nominal convergence criteria, to which Bulgaria is actually doing quite well,” said Dombrovskis, who is also a commissioner in charge of the euro.
“But also there are questions on sustainability of this nominal convergence,” he said. (Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova)