The economy of the EU has returned to growth after five consecutive quarters of contraction, according to preliminary figures published today by Eurostat, the European Commission’s statistical office.
Eurostat estimated that the EU’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.2% in the third quarter of 2009 compared to the previous quarter. In the eurozone, growth was 0.4%.
A spokesperson for Joaquín Almunia, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, said the figures were “broadly in line” with Commission forecasts. She said that Commission expected growth to stay positive to 2011, its current forecasting horizon.
Germany, the EU’s largest national economy, was among the best performers, with growth of 0.7% compared to the previous quarter. France, however, disappointed economists by recording growth of only 0.3%, identical to the amount of growth it achieved in quarter two. Experts had predicted results of 0.5-0.6%.
The highest percentage growth was achieved by Austria and Portugal, whose economies both grew by 0.9% of GDP.
The economies of Estonia, Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Hungary, Romania and the UK all contracted in the third quarter. The largest contraction recorded was in Estonia, whose economy shrank by 2.8% compared to the previous three-month period.
Eurostat was, however, unable to obtain figures from Bulgaria, Denmark, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Finland, and Sweden, meaning both average figures, as well as figures on best and worse performers, are not complete. Eurostat is expected to publish revised figures on 3 December and 8 January.
The Eurostat figures indicate that economic recovery is lagging behind the US, which scored growth of 0.9% in the third quarter. The figures also show that the EU still has a long way to go in its economic recovery. Eurostat reported that the EU economy shrunk by 4.3% in the third quarter compared to the same period in 2008. The eurozone economy contracted by 4.3%.
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