January 26, 2020 / 12:21 PM / a month ago

Bulgaria on path to adopt euro in 2023: IMF's Georgieva

FILE PHOTO: IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva attends a news conference ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland January 20, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s plans to enter the eurozone’s waiting room this spring and adopt the euro currency in 2023 are “completely foreseeable”, the head of the International Monetary Fund said on Sunday.

The Balkan country, a European Union member since 2007, hopes to join the precursor to eurozone membership, the ERM-2 exchange rate mechanism, by the end of April and adopt the euro in 2023.

“My expectations are that the plans for Bulgaria’s eurozone entry will happen exactly as made,” IMF head Kristalina Georgieva told national BNR radio.

“Of course one should not say ‘hop’ until one jumped, but things are looking very good,” she said.

Georgieva said the European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde “sees very positively” Bulgaria’s push for eurozone entry and told her at the World Economic Forum in Davos that “it seems Bulgarian would soon be spoken in my hall where eurozone meetings take place”.

Georgieva, who is of Bulgarian origin, said eurozone entry will be beneficial for the country and provide more monetary security and shield it from global uncertainty.

Bulgaria, whose lev currency is already pegged to the euro, meets the nominal criteria to adopt the single currency, with healthy public finances and low debt, but is also one of the EU’s poorest and most corrupt member states.

A comprehensive assessment at six Bulgarian lenders by the ECB last year found capital shortfalls at two locally owned banks, but both First Investment Bank 5F4.BB and Investbank has since announced plans to raise their capital.

“Bulgaria as a whole stands very well. There are two banks that had some issues but they are working on them and I do not see any problems,” Georgieva said.

Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova, Editing by William Maclean

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