PRESS RELEASE

Long-term interest rates for assessing convergence in the acceding countries

29 April 2004

Today, the European Central Bank and the European Commission (Eurostat) have published, for the first time, statistics on long-term interest rates for the ten acceding countries that will join the European Union (EU) on 1 May 2004.

At present, harmonised long-term interest rates are available for nine of the acceding countries. These interest rates will be used to assess the degree of convergence of these countries, as required under Article 121 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (the Treaty). Simultaneously, a separate interest rate indicator for Estonia is published. This indicator will be closely monitored and will be replaced as soon as a better indicator becomes available.

The interest rates have been defined jointly by the European Central Bank, the national central banks of the acceding countries and the European Commission (Eurostat). At present, monthly series covering the period from February 2003 to February 2004 are shown. Monthly updates of these statistics will be posted on the websites of the European Central Bank and the Commission (Eurostat).

Under Article 121 of the Treaty, the convergence of long-term interest rates is one of the criteria for assessing the achievement of a high degree of sustainable convergence for Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Article 4 of the Protocol on the convergence criteria annexed to the Treaty states that interest rates should be measured on the basis of long-term government bonds or comparable securities. The statistical framework for the acceding countries follows the same principles that were applied to the current EU Member States in the run‑up to Stage Three of EMU.

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