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Czech president sees euro adoption by 2017

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(PRAGUE) - President Milos Zeman said Wednesday the Czech Republic could join the eurozone by 2017, thanks to support from pro-European parties in parliament.

The country of 10.5 million people pledged to join the euro under the terms of its 2004 EU accession, but entry was sidelined for years under Zeman's predecessor, the hardline eurosceptic Vaclav Klaus.

Zeman has struck a decidedly more pro-euro tone since taking office in March 2013 as the first-ever directly elected Czech president.

"I think we could manage (to join the euro) by 2017, let's hope we'll make it," Zeman told reporters.

Until now, central bankers and politicians alike had suggested 2019 as the earliest date possible.

He said the governing leftwing Social Democrats and their coalition partners, the populist ANO movement, were likely to back the move, as would the opposition right-wing TOP 09 party.

"We export 80 percent of our output and three out of four exporters back euro adoption to avoid being exposed to exchange rate risks," added Zeman, an economist by profession.

In addition to the eurosceptic streak under Klaus, Prague had been been reluctant to fix a deadline to join the European single currency given the eurozone's problems.

The Czech Republic currently meets the deficit and debt criteria to join the euro, while inflation is low.

Heavily dependent on car production and exports to the eurozone, the Czech economy shrank in both 2012 and 2013 but is forecast to expand by 2.6 percent this year.


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