Look how we've grown!

Almost lost amid all the other international news this week is this item: Malta will be given the green light to begin using the euro on Jan. 1. Wait, isn't Malta already a member of the European Union? Yes, but this isn't just a formality; it's a reward for a job well done. Just three years ago when it was admitted to the bloc, the Mediterranean nation had a budget deficit equal to 10 percent of its gross domestic product – which was well outside EU guidelines. Before 2007 is over, that's projected to have shrunk to a mere 2.1 percent, and the EU commissioners are pleased. In fact, you could almost say they're pleased out of all proportion. As a result, the Maltese will get another boost to their stature when they exchange their lira for euro paper money and coins next year. How? Well, on them, the island will be pictured almost 10 times larger than it actually is. Come, now, the achievement surely wasn't that remarkable, was it? See, that's not the issue. The Times of Malta newspaper reports that there was a technical problem: At just 17 miles in length, the island is too small for engraving and printing machines to reproduce to scale on the map of Europe that adorns each euro. So rather than have it go unrepresented, cartographers have had to use artistic license to make Malta appear the same size as Corsica, another Mediterranean island, which is 114 miles long.

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