Estonia became the 17th member of the Eurozone on the 1st of January 2011, when the Euro replaced the Estonian Kroon (EEK). The Eurozone currently consists of 18 EU Member States however the Euro is also used as an official or a de facto currency by a number of countries and regions outside the European Union.
As these Member States share a single currency, they have to closely coordinate their economic and fiscal policies – the finance ministers of the Euro area meet monthly in Eurogroup meetings, where they discuss steps to promote financial stability and the management of the single currency area. The leaders of the states meet at the Eurosummit, where policy directions are put in place. However as the Eurozone issues are of key political and economic importance to all 28 EU Member States, they are regularly discussed in the European Council by the heads of state or government. This ensures that the monetary union functions as a unified whole and thereby improves the strength and stability of the currency.
There are rules requiring correction of excessive deficit and macroeconomic imbalances, which improves the strength and security of the currency. Stronger coordination and better enforcement of the economic policy are ongoing key targets. The Euro area also ensures the financial stability of the monetary union by having in place several financial support instruments, which further improves the security of the Eurozone.
One of the main benefits of being a member of the Eurozone is the SEPA payment system – the Single Euro Payment Area, the goal of which is to make Euro payments across Europe as quick, safe and easy as national payments. The territory consists of 34 countries in total, including those outside the Eurozone or the EU, making the project even more beneficial to the countries involved. February 1st 2014 marked the date when the Euro area replaced its national Euro credit transfers and direct debit schemes with SEPA instruments. The rest of the SEPA will have to make the transition by October 21st 2016.