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European economy

European economic growth

The European economy is set for its seventh consecutive year of growth in 2019, with all Member States' economies due to expand. Growth in the euro area was stronger than expected in the first quarter of the year due to a number of temporary factors such as mild winter conditions and a rebound in car sales. It also benefited from fiscal policy measures, which boosted household disposable income in several Member States. 

The near-term outlook for the European economy, however, is clouded by external factors including global trade tensions and significant policy uncertainty. These have continued to weigh on confidence in the manufacturing sector, which is the most exposed to international trade, and are projected to weaken the growth outlook for the remainder of the year.

As a result, the European Commission forecast for euro area GDP growth in 2019 remains unchanged at 1.2%, while the forecast for 2020 has been lowered slightly to 1.4% following the more moderate pace expected for the rest of this year (spring forecast: 1.5%). The GDP forecast for the EU remains unchanged at 1.4% in 2019 and 1.6% in 2020.

Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, also in charge of Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union, said: "All EU economies are still set to grow this year and next, even if the robust growth in Central and Eastern Europe contrasts with the slowdown in Germany and Italy. The resilience of our economies is being tested by persisting manufacturing weakness stemming from trade tensions and policy uncertainty. On the domestic side, a ‘no deal’ Brexit remains a major source of risk.” 

While growth earlier this year benefited from a number of temporary factors, the outlook for the rest of the year looks weaker as prospects for a quick rebound in global manufacturing and trade have dimmed. GDP growth in 2020 is forecast to be higher, partly due to a higher number of working days. Domestic demand, particularly household consumption, continues to drive economic growth in Europe helped by the continued strength in the labour market. GDP is forecast to grow in all EU Member States this year and next, but growth will be significantly stronger in some areas (e.g. Central and Eastern Europe, Malta and Ireland) than in others (e.g. Italy, Germany).

“The forecasts for headline inflation in the euro area and the EU have been lowered by 0.1 percentage points this year and next, mainly due to lower oil prices and the slightly weaker economic outlook. Risks to the global economic outlook remain highly interconnected and are mainly negative. An extended economic confrontation between the U.S. and China, together with the elevated uncertainty around U.S. trade policy, could prolong the current downturn in global trade and manufacturing and affect other regions and sectors. This could have negative repercussions for the global economy, including through financial market disruptions,” said the forecast.

“Tensions in the Middle East also raise the potential for significant oil price increases. Domestically, Brexit remains a major source of uncertainty. Finally, there are also significant risks surrounding near-term growth drivers and economic momentum in the euro area. Weakness in the manufacturing sector, if it were to endure, and depressed business confidence, could spill over to other sectors and harm labour market conditions, private consumption and, ultimately, growth.”

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