Maastricht criteria

Updated: 11.05.2011

In order to become a full member of the European Economic and Monetary Union and join the euro area, the EU Member States that do not use the single currency must participate in the Exchange Rate Mechanism II (ERM II) for at least two years. ERM II is a preliminary stage for countries wanting to join the euro area and having to prove that their economic indicators comply with the Maastricht criteria. The objective of the convergence criteria is to ensure balanced economic development in the EMU. These include the sustainability of public finances, price and exchange rate stability:
     - Public finances. The Council of the European Union has not issued a decision regarding the excessive budget deficit of a Member State. According to the SGP, the general government deficit must remain below 3% of GDP. Government debt must be less than 60% of GDP or approaching the required level at a satisfactory pace.
     - Exchange rate. A Member State must participate in ERM II for at least two years and maintain the exchange rate of its currency stable against the euro;
     - Price stability. A Member State's inflation rate must not exceed the average of the three Member States who have achieved the best results by more than 1.5 percentage points;
     - Interest rates. The nominal long-term interest rate must not exceed the average of the three Member States who have achieved the best results in terms of price stability by more than 2 percentage points;
     - Legal convergence. The level of central bank's independence and integration with the Eurosystem are considered.

In addition to these criteria, the European Commission and the European Central Bank, in their assessment of a Member State's readiness to join the euro area, also take into account the results of market integration, the state and development of a Member State's balance of payments, labour unit costs and other price indices. All acceding states must also continue to fulfil the fiscal criteria for the stability of public finances (budget deficit and public debt) after obtaining full membership in the EMU.