Estonia’s currency border:mobility and immobility in the European Union

by Fiona Ferbrache

Travel to Estonia this year and you no longer need to change your currency into kroon.  The reason?  On January 1st 2011, Estonia adopted the Euro (Europa, 2011).  The elimination of this currency border, between Estonia and other European Union (EU) member states in the Eurozone, may alleviate the ordinary life of mobile Estonians, partly by lowering transaction costs for a population likely to engage transnational exchanges in the EU.

It is reported that nearly 40% of Estonians are unhappy with their currency change (Womack, 2011).  Expected price rises are partly to blame, as is the image of the Euro as a currency in crisis.  On the other hand, the Estonian government argues that becoming a member of the Eurozone will give the country greater access to international markets, and allow consumers to compare prices, salaries and costs of living across national borders.

The elimination of the currency border plays both a negative and positive role to cross-border mobility within the EU.  This is one example of the argument made by van der Velde and van Naerssen in their forthcoming Area article.  By conceptualising a geographical approach to cross-border mobility, these authors note how borders can be perceived in very different ways as structures of opportunity or barriers toward mobility in the EU.  While the article also argues that EU policies shape mobility and immobility trajectories for EU citizens, emphasis is placed on decisions and perceptions at the human level – a perspective that is often neglected in studies of EU integration.

Europa (2011) Estonia – Welcome to the Euro area!  European Commission: Economic and Financial Affairs. accessed 07 January, 2011

Womack, H. (2011) Estonia ignores the Titanic gibes and goes full steam ahead into single currency. The Times. P.37 01 January, 2011

BBC News Online (2010) Estonia becomes 17th member of the euro zone 31 December, 2010

VAN DER VELDE, M. & VAN NAERSSEN, T. (forthcoming) People, borders, trajectories: an approach to cross-border mobility and immobility in and to the European Union. Area, 1-7.

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