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EU plays down IMF report on euro candidates

  The European Union’s executive arm played down a news report on Monday that an IMF document suggested the bloc’s members in central and eastern Europe should switch to the euro even without full euro zone membership.

The European Commission declined to comment directly on the report in the Financial Times newspaper, but suggested it was obsolete and said the EU had since done a lot for the region to help it fight the global financial crisis.

“This appears to be an internal report, a one month old report. We have no specific comments on the report,” a Commission spokesman told a daily news briefing. The Commission recommends whether a country is fit to adopt the euro and the final decision rests with euro zone governments.

The Commission spokesman said over the last month EU governments had doubled the bloc’s fund for non-euro zone members with financial problems to €50 billion ($67.7 billion) and boosted the EU’s contribution to the International Monetary Fund, which helps some countries in the region.

Officials from the Commission and the European Central Bank have spoken openly against any unilateral euroization, so no EU countries is expected to go against their wishes.

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet and Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, have said repeatedly there will be no short-cuts for adopting the euro and candidates must meet all strict criteria.

These include sufficiently low inflation, budget deficit, public debt, long-term interest rates and currency stability proved by staying for two years in the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM-2) system.

The euro is used officially by very small countries like Monaco, San Marino and Vatican City through agreements concluded with EU countries they were traditionally close to -- France and Italy.

Outside the euro zone, the euro is also used in ex-Yugoslav Montenegro which had previously used the German mark as their currency. It has no legal arrangement with the EU to be allowed to use the currency. (Reuters)