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Lithuania gets final approval to adopt euro in January, becoming currency zone's 19th member

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BRUSSELS — The European Union is giving Lithuania the green light to adopt the euro currency starting next year.

Ministers from the 28-nation bloc on Wednesday cleared the final legal hurdle for Lithuania to become the 19th member of the currency zone encompassing some 330 million people. The country had been given preliminary approval in June.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said adopting the euro will strengthen the Baltic nation's economy.

Alluding to the tensions with Russia over Ukraine, he added deeper integration with western Europe "means greater security as well."

Lithuania's Baltic neighbors, Estonia and Latvia, are already members of the euro. All three countries achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The euro is just emerging from years of financial stress following debt problems in a number of countries.

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