(QHA) - Latvia has begun the new year by joining the eurozone, becoming the 18th member of the group of EU states which uses the euro as its currency, BBC informs. The former Soviet republic on the Baltic Sea recently emerged from the financial crisis to become the EU's fastest-growing economy. Correspondents report much scepticism in the country after recent bailouts for existing eurozone members. But there is also hope that the euro will reduce dependency on Russia. EU commissioner Olli Rehn said joining the eurozone marked "the completion of Latvia's journey back to the political and economic heart of our continent, and that is something for all of us to celebrate". The government and most business owners also welcomed the single currency, saying it would improve Latvia's credit rating and attract foreign investors. However, some opinion polls suggested almost 60% of the population did not want the new currency.