EU lengthens list of countries set for negative growth

Updated: 2012-02-24 07:47

By Fu Jing (China Daily)

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EU lengthens list of countries set for negative growth

BRUSSELS - A third of the 27 countries in the European Union will see their economies contract in 2012 and that downward trend will result in stagnant economic growth for the group, an EU report said on Thursday.

The prospects were bad enough to lead the EU to even lower its forecast for Germany, which is usually considered to be the economic powerhouse among the group members. The EU predicted that Germany will only see economic growth of 0.6 percent this year, far below the 3 percent growth it had in 2011.

In a previous report, the EU predicted that only Greece and Portugal would see negative growth in 2012. Now, though, it has made the same forecast for Belgium, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Hungary.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Olli Rehn, vice-president of the European Commission, said the EU will have stagnant growth this year and the eurozone is likely to undergo a mild recession, even though a few signs of economic stability have appeared as of late.

Shortly after eurozone finance ministers on Tuesday brokered a rescue deal that will provide 130 billion euros ($172.8 billion) to Greece, the EU began adding to the list of countries that it expects will struggle with negative growth.

Despite the gloomy forecasts, EU economic conditions are better now than they were in 2009, when all of the countries in the group, except Poland, were struggling with economic contractions.

Rehn said that, along with zero economic growth in the European Union, the growth rate of the 17 countries that form the eurozone, where the euro is used as a common currency, will decrease by 0.3 percent.

When explaining the reasons behind the slowdown, Rehn said: "Risks to the global growth outlook remain elevated."

He said the worst danger comes from the possibility that the sovereign-debt crisis in the eurozone will spread to other economies. He also warned that political tensions might become aggravated in oil-exporting regions, leading to higher oil prices.

Rehn forecast that the global economy and growth in world trade will recover only gradually in 2012, after having weakened since spring 2011.

Even so, he said the underlying causes of growth might prove stronger than what is envisaged in the forecast, especially if the US economy were to rebound sooner.

"Although growth has stalled, we are seeing signs of stabilization in the European economy," Rehn said.

He said many steps have been taken to ensure financial stability and to establish the conditions needed for sustainable growth and employment.

"With decisive action, we can turn the corner and move from stabilization to boosting growth and jobs," Rehn said.

The EU's forecast resembled revised estimates released recently by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

The IMF has predicted that global output will increase by 3.25 percent in 2012, a number that is 0.75 percentage point below its forecast in September.

The World Bank, for its part, said the sovereign debt crisis in Europe has coincided with slowing growth in several prominent developing economies.

It predicted the world economy will be impeded by the aftershocks of the 2008 financial crisis and will grow by only 2.5 percent in 2012.

China Daily