eastern europe

By Piroska Mohácsi Nagy, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

An historic thawing of ties between Cuba and the United States has raised the question of how far the Communist island state is prepared to go in opening up its economy to the forces of the market and integration with the international community.

If and when Cuba does embark on a path of economic – and perhaps also a degree of political transformation – it could well enjoy the advantages of the late-comer, drawing lessons both positive and negative from eastern Europe over the last quarter of a century. Read more

Emerging European economies – particularly the four core central European states of Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland – must invest more in education and innovation if they are to bring their living standards closer to those of their west European neighbours. Read more

Italian energy company ERG Group is at present predominately an oil and gas operation – but like many of its competitors, it wants a bigger piece of the green energy action. Perhaps emerging Europe is the place to look?

In its €500m 2013-15 investment plans announced on Wednesday, ERG outlined a shift in priorities towards growing its wind power activities. and it is seeking expansion in the Romanian and Bulgarian markets. Both offer attractive investment opportunities thanks to state support, but how long will that last? Read more

The future of central and eastern Europe (CEE) rests on decisions being made beyond its borders, as a special report in Friday’s FT warns. The region relies on the eurozone for trade and investment.

But investors are recognising the fact that countries in CEE dealt with their fiscal problems especially quickly. Credit default swap spreads in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are converging with those in the core eurozone and deleveraging in CEE is more limited than in some west European markets. Read more

By Petra Lesjak

Slovenians go to the polls on Sunday after the collapse of the centre-right Pahor coaltion government in September, leading to the first early elections since the country’s independence in 1991.

The new government will face a deteriorating economy and stagnating capital market and must confront the privatisation of government-controlled stakes in numerous major companies, along with problems in the banking sector. Read more

With rising fears that Greece may be headed for the eurozone’s exits, it is heartening to see someone banging on the door to be let in – in this case Poland.

Although Poland has one of the strongest economies in the EU – the country’s central bank predicts growth of 3.2 per cent in 2012, faster than just about everywhere else in the EU – Marek Belka, the central bank governor, again reiterates that the country’s long-term goal is to join the common currency. Read more


Grey November skies have brought especially gloomy economic tidings for Serbia, with the largest exporter, US Steel, considering closing down because of the poor regional economic outlook.

John P Surma, chairman and CEO of the steel multinational , attributed the bulk of the losses in US Steel’s bad third-quarter earnings to its Serbian steel mills, acquired by privatisation for $33m in 2003. Read more

With Croatia’s accession treaty ready for approval, the European Union is turning its attention to the next batch of aspiring member states, the Western Balkans.

The simplest to absorb should be the smallest: Montenegro. But it will be no shoo-in. The EU’s experience with Croatia will make it less forgiving on issues of governance. Montenegro’s record on corruption and cronyism will make accession a particularly difficult and drawn-out process in spite of recent efforts to clean up politics and business. Read more

Poland continues to confound those who keep waiting for the country’s unusually resilient economy to show signs of sputtering – such as is happening in much of the rest of the EU.

In yet another in a series of unexpectedly strong economic data, Poland’s retail sales numbers released earlier today surprised on the upside, coming in at an annual increase of 11.4 per cent for September, up from 11.3 per cent in August and far above the 10 per cent market consensus. Read more

It’s not enough that Polish real estate owners (many of whom have mortgages denominated in Swiss currency) have been battered by the soaring franc, they’ve also had to contend with a steady fall in the value of flats.

According to a new study by Ober-Haus, a central European real estate agency, that uses its internal data, apartment prices are continuing to sag. In September, prices fell month-on-month in most large urban centres – from a tiny 0.1 per cent in Warsaw to a steeper 1.2 per cent in the secondary cities of Poznan, Lodz and Katowice. Read more

By Ryszard Petru, chief economic advisor for Demos Europa

Although Poland does not have the euro, its economic future is closely tied to the success of the common currency. Sixty per cent of Polish exports go to the eurozone. A quarter of all Polish exports to go to a single country: Germany.

Poland is a less open economy than the Czech Republic, Hungary or Slovakia, where the relation of exports to gross domestic product is close to 80 per cent. In Poland it is only 40 per cent. Poland’s large internal market makes the difference. Read more

A sharp reminder of the vulnerability of central and eastern Europe to shifts in short-term capital flows comes in a report from UniCredit.

While it doesn’t mention Greece,  it is, in effect, all about Greece as it is looking at which countries could be most vulnerable to sudden capital outflows. Compared to the last crisis in the region in 2008/9,  Russia, Kazkhstan, Latvia and the Czech Republic are in a better position to cope. But Ukraine, Turkey and Poland are worse off. Read more

Good news – on the face of it – for Greece. An extensive new survey by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development finds that east Europeans, though hit much harder than western counterparts by the financial crisis, emerged with their life satisfaction levels, overall, almost unscathed.

Drill down into the figures in the EBRD’s Life in Transition report, however, and they may not provide much reassurance to Greeks protesting against the austerity measures being voted on by their parliament. Read more

Jakub Voracek (C) of the Czech Republic fights for a puck with Mikelis Redlihs of Latvia during the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships group D match in Bratislava,It’s half time in the beautiful, bountiful game of procuring EU subsidies in central-eastern Europe, and every team, more or less, can enter the dressing room claiming some success – at least according to KPMG’s latest report on such affairs – EU Funds in Central and Eastern Europe – Progress Report 2007-10 – released this week. Read more