Lithuania looks set to become the 19th member of the euro in January 2015 having met all the requirements demanded by the European Commission. Were the Baltic state to join the single currency, as is widely expected, that would trigger a big change in the way the European Central Bank’s governing council votes on monetary policy.
Membership of the eurozone guarantees Lithuania’s central bank chairman, Vitas Vasiliauskas, a seat at the ECB governing council’s table. But that table is already pretty crowded — sitting round it every month, there are the 18 heads of the national central banks, along with the six members of the ECB’s executive board.
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The risk that the governing could one day become unwieldy was recognised when the statutes of the ECB were drawn up. To prevent this, the European Treaty scraps the one-governor, one-vote system as soon as the number of central bank governors exceeds 18.
The change was supposed to happen earlier, when the number of central bank governors rose above 15. But the governing council was allowed to postpone it until now.
If Lithuania’s accession goes ahead, from January, only the members of the executive board, which include ECB president Mario Draghi, will still be able to vote at each meeting.