Sofia (AFP) - Bulgaria, the EU's poorest member state, on Thursday said it wants to enter the "waiting room" to join the euro as it marked the start of the bloc's presidency.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has called for the eurozone to expand beyond its current 19 members.
But any country that, like Bulgaria, wants to gain access to the single currency club must first join the ERM2 Exchange Rate Mechanism.
"Bulgaria has a stable currency, growth of 4 percent, low unemployment. We are ready to join the waiting room for the euro," Prime Minister Boyko Borisov told a press conference.
He said Bulgaria had spoken to European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi, saying "we have done our duty."
"We will probably go in the first quarter to the ECB," Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov said.
"We are in intense talks with the ECB. We have to get their word that they are ready."
Juncker later said the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, would try to help Bulgaria prepare.
"Your place is in the euro, we will work for that," he told a presidency ceremony on Thursday.
Former Soviet bloc Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 and took over its rotating six month presidency at the start of January.
But it remain dogged by concerns about corruption and it is also a net recipient of EU funds.
Bulgaria also wants to convince its peers that it is ready to join the visa-free Schengen zone.