Lithuania has finally met the convergence criteria and will adopt the euro as its official currency on January 1 2015. Lithuania has been the only country to have been refused entry to the euro because inflation was 2.7% i.e. above the 2.6% maximum allowed in 2006. (FYI only the UK and Denmark are allowed to keep their own currency although EU members).
This will make it the last of the three Baltic States to adopt it, after Estonia (2011) and Latvia (2014) although its currency has been pegged to the euro at 3.4528 litas to 1 euro since 2002.
This is a sad day for travellers like me who enjoy the varied currencies across the world. At home I have some Swiss, Danish and Swedish currency among others. Moving around Europe is not a problem if you don’t have euros as most countries accept sterling or dollars (as long as it’s in notes and they give you the change in local currency).
It seems whenever a country adopts the euro prices rise. I remember talking to a German taxi driver in Hanover in 2002, the year Germany switched over to the euro, and he was complaining that everything had gone up in price, even getting his hair cut. No doubt there are similar worries in Lithuania.
The first litas were introduced on 2 October 1922, replacing the ostmark and ostruble, both of which had been issued by the occupying German forces during World War I. The ostmark was known as the auksinas in Lithuania. In 1939 Nazi Germany demanded the return of the Klaipeda region (which the Germans called Memel) which they’d lost after WWI and the German reichsmark was used in the Klaipdea region. However after the Soviet Union annexed Lithuania in April 1941 the lita was replaced by the ruble.
After independence in 1991, Lithuania used a temporary currency called talonas which was only issued in note form, It was used between 1991 and 1993 until the new currency could be produced.
The lita now comes in several different denominations of bank note with 10, 20, 50, 100, and 500 notes. When the 10, 20 and 50 litų notes were released in 1993 it was only for a very short time because they had no security features and were hastily withdrawn.
The 50 lita note is interesting. The front (obverse) bears a portrait of the national patriarch, scholar, statesman and signatory of Lithuania’s Declaration of Independence of February 16, 1918, Dr. Jonas Basanavičius (1851–1927).
The back of the banknote (below) depicts Vilnius Cathedral and its belfry, the monument to Grand Duke Gediminas, Gediminas Castle and the Hill of Three Crosses. All these objects are considered as the heart of Vilnius and are strong national symbols.
NB This banknote is the only one that closely represents a banknote released in the interwar Lithuania.
The 1993 release was designed by Ray Bartkus. At first the reverse depicted only Vilnius Cathedral and indistinctive houses of Vilnius Old Town. In a later 1998 release, however, the view of the cathedral changed to include the other monuments.
This 2003 issue is the newest banknote but the view featured appears outdated as it fails to display the newly built Royal Palace and Museum.
My favourite however is the 10 lita note. The reverse of the 10 litų banknote features Lithuanian heroes, Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas. In 1933 they flew from New York over the Atlantic Ocean with a small plane called Lituanica which had been modified to carry extra fuel. Their planned destination was Kaunas but they never made it as the plane mysteriously crashed in Germany (now Poland). The duo did not survive. The most recent release clearly shows Darius wearing a cap with insignia from the Palwaukee Municipal Airport in Wheeling, Illinois.
So with the adoption of the euro we lose some of that sense of history. The only positive aspect of the new euro coins is that on the national side of the coin it features Vytis, the national symbol of Lithuania. I’m not sure what will be on the banknotes.
Background: Lithuania’s parliament approved a euro changeover law in April 2014, and in their biennial reports released on 4 June the European Commission and European Central Bank found that the country satisfied the convergence criteria.
On 16 July the European Parliament voted in favour of Lithuania adopting the euro and on 23 July the EU Council of Ministers approved the decision, clearing the way for Lithuania to adopt the euro.
Next time I go it will all be in euros but I’ve saved a couple of the old notes for sentimental reasons.
Originally posted October 2014