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Poland, Hungary, Czechs in no rush to join euro

14 October 2011, 16:27 CET

(PRAGUE) - Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are in no rush to join the crisis-struck eurozone, despite being obliged to do so as part of their 2004 European Union entry deals, their leaders said Friday.

"The monetary union is gradually turning into a union of transfers and debt, so we must wait to see where the eurozone will head next," Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said after meeting his counterparts, Hungary's Viktor Orban and Poland's Donald Tusk, in Prague.

All three leaders agreed the eurozone crisis was a serious cause for concern for their respective economies as eurozone countries are their key trading partners.

"My government has not and will not set a euro entry date," during its term ending in 2014, Necas added.

"The Czech Republic doesn't meet the convergence criteria, and the euro project is radically changing against the first half of the past decade," he said to nods from both his partners.

Tusk, whose country holds the rotating six-month EU presidency, said Poland was interested in joining the euro, but it did not yet comply with the criteria either.

"On the other hand, the eurozone must meet the criteria too," said Tusk as the 17-member currency bloc scrambles to salvage debtors like Greece and the banks that hold the massive sovereign debts.

Eurozone entry criteria fix the state debt ceiling at 60 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), cap the public deficit at 3.0 percent of GDP, as well as inflation and lending rate targets.

"The future of the eurozone is a question not for entry candidates, but for eurozone members who have led it to this critical situation by their not always responsible behaviour," said Tusk.

Warning against a so-called two-speed Europe, Orban said the 17-member eurozone should take decisions that will also be welcomed by countries outside the group.

"The EU must not be divided into the eurozone and the rest," he said.

The prime ministers arrived in Prague for a meeting of the Visegrad-four group of former communist central European countries, which also includes Slovakia, a eurozone member since 2009.

But Slovakia's Prime Minister Iveta Radicova did not make it to the meeting after her cabinet was toppled earlier this week in a parliamentary confidence motion tied to a crucial vote on the eurozone's bailout fund designed to help debt-mired countries.

Twenty years ago all four states undertook radical overhauls of their communist-era command economies in order to build free markets from scratch. Deep and often socially painful restructuring measures were also required ahead of their 2004 EU entry.

Poland, the largest of the four, was the only EU state to avoid recession during the global crisis in 2009 posting 1.7 percent growth in GDP.

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