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Latvia Becomes 18th Country to Adopt Euro

Latvia ushered in the new year as the newest and 18th member of the eurozone.

The euro became Latvia's official currency Wednesday as New Year's fireworks exploded in the skies over the capital, Riga.

Latvia's acting prime minister, Valdis Dombrovskis, who led his country through its worst economic crisis since it left the former Soviet Union in the early 1990s, said the move was an opportunity, but not a guarantee of wealth.

Latvia's economy shrank by a quarter during 2008-2010, but then grew at the fastest pace in the EU, expanding by 5.6 percent in 2012, after the government slashed spending and wages and increased taxes, in one of the harshest austerity programs in Europe.

Opinion polls show most of Latvia's 2 million citizens are wary of the move to the West, and see the adoption of the euro as way to higher prices, while others are reluctant to give up Latvia's own currency, the lat.

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