By Jan Cienski of demosEuropa
A decade ago, Europe bound together the two halves of the continent, torn apart by war and then by long years of dysfunctional communist rule.
The case for European Union expansion was not always obvious. Some worried about annoying Russia, others felt that saddling the EU with bedraggled countries still fresh from transforming themselves into market economies would drag down western Europe.
They need not have been concerned. Read more
Nothing like a foreign policy crisis to concentrate the mind.
Poland’s potential adoption of the euro, which had been pushed off to the end of the decade under political, economic and constitutional difficulties and lacklustre public support, has been given a jolt of energy by Russia’s creeping invasion of Crimea. Read more
By Pawel Swieboda and Milan Nic
There will be two types of anniversaries in Europe this year. The ones related to 1914, will be all about the risks of complacency. At last December’s European Council, Angela Merkel felt compelled to quote from The Sleepwalkers, a history book about the First World War, to stress what the price of political failure could be. However, there will also be two heartening anniversaries, recalling 25 years of democracy in Central Europe and 10 years of the region’s membership in the EU. Read more
Maybe it’s time to start preparing for a return wave of CEE migrants from western Europe, as Thursday’s flash GDP third quarter numbers show that most of the region’s economies are experiencing a sharp recovery – in contrast to stagnation in the eurozone. Read more
By Erik Berglof of the EBRD
Latvia has just been given the green light by the European Commission to enter the eurozone. What Latvia has achieved in the period since it was rescued by the international community in 2009 is nothing short of remarkable. This achievement is now used as an example for the countries in southern Europe of how to restore growth and competitiveness. Read more
The Czech Republic is in a terrible downturn that shows no sign of coming to an end with new flash GDP data showing a first quarter annual contraction of 1.9 per cent, much worse than analysts had predicted and the Czech economy’s worst performance since the depths of the first wave of the crisis in 2009. Read more
Question: What’s the link between a national airline, a global-brand ski factory and an organic flour producer?
Answer: none at all, except in Slovenia, where any half-aware citizen would immediately recognise them as state-owned companies being prepared for privatisation to raise the cash to bail out Slovenia’s heavily indebted banks and balance the national budget. Read more
Rarely has a forecast been cut so fast. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on Friday slashed its 2013 growth forecast for the emerging economies of central and eastern Europe and North Africa from 3.1 per cent in January to just 2.2 per cent.
While the effects of the eurozone crisis have abated, economic activity is slowing faster than expected in the region’s biggest two markets – Russia and Poland. Structural reforms are needed, and needed now, says the bank. But it always says that. Read more
Poland and the Czech Republic seem to be heading in different directions over the euro.
The Czech Republic has long been one of the region’s greatest sceptics on joining the common currency, preferring to hang on to the koruna and enjoy a reputation for fiscal and monetary probity at least equal to that of the EU and the European Central Bank.
Czech governments have for years refused to set a firm date for entry. But now Milos Zeman, the country’s new centre-left president, said in a German press interview that his country could be in the euro by 2018 – a marked departure from the eurosceptic views of his predecessor Vaclav Klaus, who famously even refused to fly the EU’s blue banner over his residence. Read more
Latvia hopes to become the 18th EU member state to join the eurozone. Estonia became the 17th in 2011. The FT’s Nordic and Baltic correspondent Richard Milne spoke to the President of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, about his country’s experience in the eurozone and his advice to Latvia.
In or out? That’s the question as Poland’s leaders send mixed messages about just how aggressively the country plans to move towards adopting the euro.
Donald Tusk, the prime minister, was in Berlin on Monday where he said he wants Poland to join “as soon as possible”, according to Reuters. Read more
By Petra Lesjak of KD Funds
Alenka Bratušek became Slovenia’s new prime minister last week, the first female head of government of this Alpine state of 2m people. She could hardly have had a tougher start to the job, as Monday’s last-minute deal to rescue Cyprus left many wondering if Slovenia might be next in the queue for a bailout.
Slovenia needs to refinance approximately €1bn in treasury notes by June. Its banks have a hole in their combined balance sheets of about €4bn. The banks still have liquidity but it is streaming out of deposits that they are paying heftily for – about 4 per cent a year for 12-month deposits. Bratušek and her new government have a lot of work to do. Read more
A vote of confidence in the euro: Latvia on Monday formally decided to join the troubled common currency, with the prime minister, finance minister and central bank governor jointly signing the application.
It might not make headlines in the ECB’s headquarters in Frankfurt. But for Riga this is big news – its most important economic decision since it joined the European Union in 2004. Read more
By David Edgerly
Given the endless sovereign debt crisis in Greece, the collapse of the economy, the chaos and corruption of the country’s politics it is perhaps understandable that reasonable investors have lost interest in the Athens Stock Exchange. Index provider MSCI is mulling whether to reclassify Greece as an emerging market.
There’s quite a frontier feel to Greece at the moment. Phone calls to inquire about investing in Greece, in any form, are often met with either stunned silence or gales of laughter. Read more
The OECD Economic Outlook, published on Tuesday, has rung a few alarm bells for developed economies, as the FT reports.
But what about emerging economies? What’s the impact on them from the eurozone “negative feedback loop”, as the organisation puts it? Read more
Russia’s central bank kept its policy interest rates unchanged on Friday morning, as widely expected. But the non-event is worth noticing as it shows the Russian economy moving into its post-election phase – ie, one of slower growth. Read more
Poland’s slowing economy prompted the central bank’s interest rate-stetting Monetary Policy Council on Wednesday to cut its benchmark rate by a quarter point to 4.5 per cent – the first step in what most analysts expect is the start of a longer term loosening of monetary policy.
The Polish MPC was the only central bank in the EU to increase rates earlier this year, when prospects for the Polish economy seemed a lot brighter and the big problem was persistently high inflation. Read more
The crisis in the eurozone has been causing plenty of worries in Asia – particularly around the supply of credit to the region. But the bigger problem for many countries lies closer to home – in a dramatic reversal of the build up of surplus cash that has been Asia’s hallmark for the past decade.
Across the region, according to research from Morgan Stanley analysts, declining exports and strengthening domestic demand for goods produced locally and abroad are combining to cut current account surpluses. Read more
These are tough times for Angela Merkel, the German chancellor: a nasty welcome in Athens last week, an increasingly contentious conflict with François Hollande, the French president, over banking union, and a fierce attack on her crisis management in the German parliament.
So it must have been nice to get a pat on the back this week, even it if was from an unlikely source: Ricardo Martinelli, president of Panama, who told Merkel on a visit to Berlin he would like to introduce the euro as Panamanian legal tender alongside the US dollar, because he has “full confidence in the euro, full confidence in Europe.” Read more