European leaders eye Lithuania's 2015 eurozone entry

Top EU leaders said Friday they were optimistic Lithuania will join the eurozone in 2015, completing the embrace of the European single currency by the Baltic countries.

"I expect Lithuania to join already next year as the 19th member and completing the Baltic euro accession," European Council President Herman van Rompuy said Friday in Riga, Latvia, which became the eurozone's 18th member as of the new year.

"I think not very far from now we will have all the three Baltic states members of the euro," echoed European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, at a joint press conference in Riga.

An EU member since 2004, Latvia joined the eurozone on January 1 as the second former Soviet republic to do so, after neighbouring Estonia which joined in 2011.

The lat will remain legal tender in Latvia until January 14, after which only euros will be accepted

A nation of two million, Latvia met key targets for the on euro adoption focused on inflation, low deficits and debt by implementing a series of brutal austerity measures dubbed "internal devaluation" amid deep recession.

The austerity drive has been touted as an example to other countries by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.