DESPITE predictions of economic doom – including occasional ones from myself – Europe's economy continues to grow. In fact, the economic growth figures just released by Eurostat give some more reasons for hope. But there are still a few problem countries, or sick men of Europe, and Finland happens to be one of them.
THE European economy grew at a slow but respectable 1.3% rate in the third quarter. The Eurozone nations lagged behind, as usual, but still grew 0.8%. This isn't much, but growth is growth. There was particular concern about the largest countries, but those worries turned out to be unfounded. Germany grew 1.2% while France, who flatlined in the spring, grew at a 0.4% rate.
THERE was plenty of good news among most of the bailout countries. Ireland contracted in the fourth quarter of 2013 but since then has had the best-performing economy in Europe. Portugal is growing at a 3.4% rate, while Spain expanded 1.6%. Greece, who had their economy contract by almost a quarter since the financial crisis, has finally returned to growth. They expanded 0.4% in the summer and 1.4% in the autumn.
BUT now for the bad news. Europe still has four countries in recession: Croatia, Cyprus, Italy and Finland. These are the four "sick men of Europe," and they are sick for mostly different reasons.
CROATIA has been in recession for six years, hurt by weakness in their trading partners, attempts to cut high debt levels and inefficient public companies. Cyprus is still in recession and is trying to recover from its burst financial bubble, ensuing banking crisis and enforced austerity. Italy has a large and diversified economy but domestic demand is falling.
David J. Cord
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