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Eurozone Welcomes Croatia's Bid to Join Euro, at Earliest in 2023

FILE - Euro currency bills are pictured at the Croatian National Bank in Zagreb, Croatia, May 21, 2019.

Croatia has submitted a formal bid to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM-2), an early stage on the path to membership of the euro currency, the head of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers said Monday.

The move could allow the Balkan country to join the euro currency zone, which currently comprises 19 states, at the earliest in 2023, an EU official said.

Commitments offered by Croatia in a letter were welcomed by the bloc's finance ministers at a meeting Monday, the chair of the meeting Mario Centeno told a news conference.

EU economics commissioner Pierre Moscovici said Zagreb's move was a "vote of confidence in the euro."

Croatia has committed to preparing the ground for the European Central Bank to take over banking supervision in the country. It has also committed to applying reforms on anti-money laundering rules and to making the public administration more effective and less costly, an EU statement said.

The ECB and the European Commission will monitor the application of these commitments in a process that is expected to last one year.

After that, Croatia will join the ERM-2, where it will stay for at least two years before it could start the practical preparations to join the eurozone, a process that takes roughly another year, making 2023 the earliest year for euro membership.

Bulgaria started the same process last year and could join the eurozone at the earliest in 2022.