In the years before the crisis, Slovenia was touted as the Switzerland of eastern Europe, praised for its robust export-oriented economy, sizeable banking sector and hard-working citizenry, as well as its stunning Alpine scenery. Then the crash came and its banks racked up multi-billion euro shortfalls, exports plunged and allegations of graft started to surface. By 2013, this tiny former Yugoslav state was “the next Cyprus”, in line for an EU-IMF bailout and a possible eurozone exit.

Now it has bounced back again and on April 1, Slovenia issued a €2m tranche of bonds on the international markets, marking the fastest pace of debt issuance in its short history and ensuring it has more than enough funds for its full-year 2014 financing needs. Continue reading »

A landslide win for the ruling party in Sunday’s Serbian election provides a mandate for sweeping reforms including privatisations, changes to labour legislation and fiscal tightening in the country running Europe’s highest budget deficit.

But, as ever, actually implementing unpopular measures is likely to prove difficult, even with a hefty parliamentary majority. Continue reading »

A Romanian investment fund originally set up by the government to compensate people who had their assets confiscated under communism will seek to list in London, in an ambitious move that could boost investor access to Romanian equities.

Fondul Proprietatea (“the property fund”) could complete a secondary listing on the London Stock Exchange by the end of the year, its institutional administrator Franklin Templeton said this month. Continue reading »

On January 15, 2000, 23-year-old Dobrosav Gavric strode into the lobby of Belgrade’s InterContinental hotel, pulled out a Heckler and Koch submachine gun and unloaded it into Arkan, one of the most notorious warlords and gangsters in the Balkans.

Arkan – real name Zeljko Raznatovic – died in the arms of Ceca, his “turbo-folk” singer wife, the other half of the First Couple of Serbian nationalism. The assassination seemed to typify Serbia in the wake of the Yugoslav wars: lawless, shamelessly violent and ruled by extremist kleptocrats. Continue reading »

Serbia could privatise up to 100 state-owned companies and enact wide-ranging reform of the business environment if the government is re-elected in next month’s general election, Ivica Dacic, prime minister (pictured), has told beyondbrics in exclusive comments.

But can he deliver? Continue reading »

Five per cent GDP growth is these days more associated with the fittest Asian and African emerging economies than the sluggish EU fringe, but Romania has sprung a surprise with its Q4 2013 figures, its best for five years.

A flash estimate from Bucharest’s National Institute of Statistics on February 14 suggests that the economy grew by 5.2 per cent year-on-year in the final quarter of last year. This takes its full-year rate to 3.5 per cent, among the fastest in Europe and appreciably above a recent IMF forecast of 2.8 per cent. Meanwhile inflation, once a serious concern, fell to an all-time low of 1.1 per cent in January. Continue reading »

Six years of recession and government “inertia” are taking their toll on the EU’s newest member, according to Standard & Poor’s, which downgraded Croatia on Friday. The country’s long-term debt rating now stands at BB, lowering it further into non-investment grade. Hopes of an immediate departure from years of stalling on reform are dim – and it is scant reassurance that Croatia is not yet in fiscal crisis. Continue reading »

Recovering growth, a new settlement on Kosovo, real progress with the European Union, generous funding packages from the UAE and Russia and new trade and investment ties – last year was a pretty good one for Serbia. The government is already looking to cash in on the success with a snap election in the spring.

But has the positive news papered over real cracks in the economy? That is the view of Fitch, the ratings agency, which on Friday downgraded Serbia to B+, or “highly speculative junk” status. Continue reading »

Finance Minister Uros Cufer

Slovenia is set to join a regional rush to the bond markets as it seeks to borrow €3.5bn, equivalent to around 10 per cent of its annual GDP, this year. The government announced that it would raise the cash largely through “long-term borrowing through issuing sovereign bonds”, with some short-term local notes also likely to be issued.

The statement raised the possibility of using the funds to help finance a €4.8bn bank bailout announced in December, which includes a €3.2bn recapitalisation programme. The government is confident that this can be met without resorting to an international bailout of the sort that has placed severe strictures on other eurozone countries such as Greece and Portugal. Continue reading »

In recent weeks, much has been made of Romanians’ desire to leave their country and work abroad, partly due to the weakness of Romania’s own economy. On Wednesday, the country’s central bank made an ambitious move that may help that economy, the second poorest in the EU, by cutting rates to a record low and easing reserve requirements. Continue reading »

Just over a decade ago, in the wake of the bloody Yugolsav Wars, Serbia was regarded as a pariah by many European countries. Next month, it will start negotiations for membership of the European Union.

A rogue state no more, the beginning of formal talks on a wide range of policy areas (“chapters”) indicates how far the country has come. But the way ahead is not an easy one, entailing many years of difficult reforms. Continue reading »

Serbia’s national bank has delivered an early Christmas present to borrowers with another interest rate cut, its third in succession.

The move comes as talk of a snap election next year intensifies, raising concerns about the short-term economic outlook and the future of the government’s promised austerity measures. Continue reading »

Bulgaria’s government has been besieged by protesters for six months, and oversees an economy that has averaged growth of just 1 per cent since 2010. Those were the main factors behind Standard & Poor’s recent decision to revise its outlook for the country to “negative” from “stable”.

The change may be unwelcome, but merely reflects the difficult economic and political situation. Will it affect Bulgaria’s fledgling recovery? Continue reading »

Slovenia is no longer the Switzerland of Eastern Europe – but perhaps not the Cyprus or Ireland, either.

Slovenia’s government is confident that it can now dodge the bullet of an international bailout, announcing on Thursday that it would be able to cover a whopping €3bn recapitalisation of its troubled banks from its own resources, despite that sum totalling nearly 10 per cent of GDP. While the announcement has been made with a palpable sense of relief in the tiny eurozone country, questions remain about implementation – and whether the absence of international pressure will allow Slovenia to stall on much-needed reforms. Continue reading »

Croatia’s accession to the European Union on July 1 may have been hugely significant for a country putting years of Communist dictatorship and subsequent war behind it. But its first three months of membership have been characterised by economic decline, rather than the hoped-for resurgence. And the immediate outlook is not much sunnier. Continue reading »