Bulgaria hopes to join euro zone 'waiting room' by end of April -minister

SOFIA, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Bulgaria hopes to join the precursor to euro zone membership, the ERM-2 exchange rate mechanism, by April 30, Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said on Wednesday, pushing back Sofia’s target of joining before year-end.

“If everything is going the way it is in our heads - in the heads of the people we have engaged in this process, by my birthday (April 30), everything should be over,” Goranov told reporters.

The Balkan country, a European Union member since 2007, had initially aimed to join the bloc’s banking union and the two-year “waiting room” for euro zone membership together in July before pushing the target back to the end of the year.

On Tuesday the EU insurance watchdog EIOPA gave its nod for Bulgaria to enter the euro zone’s “waiting room” in a letter to the European Commission, leaving the European Central Bank as the last EU institution to have its say on whether Sofia should be allowed to join the ERM-2 mechanism.

The European Exchange Rate Mechanism was introduced in 1979 as part of the European Monetary System, to reduce exchange rate volatility and promote monetary stability in Europe. It was replaced by ERM-2 in 1999.

Bulgaria, whose lev currency is already pegged to the euro, meets the nominal criteria to adopt the single currency, with healthy public finances and low debt, but it is also one of Europe’s poorest and most corrupt countries.

Sofia has made wide-ranging commitments to secure banking union and ERM-2 membership, including strengthening of its banking sector and its anti-money laundering systems. (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov in Sofia Editing by Matthew Lewis)