EU economy shrank by 0.3% in Q4 of 2011

6 Mar 12
Gross domestic product for both the eurozone and the European Union as a whole fell by 0.3% over the last three months of 2011, Eurostat said yesterday

By Nick Mann | 16 February 2012  

Gross domestic product for both the eurozone and the European Union as a whole fell by 0.3% over the last three months of 2011, Eurostat said yesterday.

The European Union’s statistical agency’s latest figures mean that for 2011 as a whole, the GDP of the 17 countries using the single currency grew by 1.5%, while the 27 EU member states experienced 1.6% growth.

A total of four countries recorded their second consecutive quarter of negative growth and as such technically fell into recession in the final quarter of 2011. These include Belgium, Italy, The Netherlands and Portugal, with the latter recording the largest quarterly decline at 1.3%.

Both the UK and Europe’s largest economy, Germany, also saw their GDP fall in the fourth quarter – by 0.2% – but France’s economy grew by 0.2% compared with Q3.

In comparison, the US, recorded 0.7% growth in the final quarter of 2011, and Japan’s economy shrank by 0.6%.

While the figures do not include data for Greece, the country’s own statistics office released figures this week showing its economy shrank by 7% in the final quarter of 2011, compared with the same quarter the previous year.

Eurozone finance ministers are yet to approve the release of the latest bailout funds for Greece from the ‘troika’ – the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

They had been expected to meet yesterday to discuss the issue, but the ‘eurogroup’ meeting was cancelled. This was reportedly due to a lack of cast-iron assurances that Greece would implement an additional €325m in austerity measures.

However, following a phone conference with Greek leaders last night, the president of the eurogroup, Jean-Claude Juncker, said these additional measures had been ‘identified’ and a timeline was in place for their implementation. He said he was ‘confident’ the bailout would be agreed by the eurogroup at its next meeting, on February 20.

At a plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg yesterday, an EC official said the commission was committed to keep Greece in the eurozone. Maros Sefcovic told MEPs: ‘The commission is Greece's best ally. We want Greece to remain a member of the euro area,’ he added.

However, Austrian MEP Hannes Swoboda said: ‘The troika is aggravating the situation in Greece... and leaving no room for social dialogue.’

UK MEP Nigel Farage said the Greek economy was in a ‘death spiral’. Greece should leave the euro and return to its sovereign currency the drachma, he added.

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