The European Union is going through its toughest break since its inception. Populist propaganda is sweeping the union threatening it with disintegration, the effects of which can be clearly seen in places like Hungary, Poland and, most notably, the UK, which voted to leave the EU by referendum. Immigrants, lack of jobs, and a poor financial situation were some of the ammunition used by conservative and right-wing groups seeking to discredit the EU Commission as a trove of worthless bureaucrats so they can gain power — preferably without the EU having a pesky hand in the affairs of the state through occult regulation.
This anti-EU sentiment is gaining steam, most notably in the past year. But the same year of 2016 saw unprecedented economic growth in the union across all member states since the dire 07-08 financial crisis. That’s in every EU country, from Portugal to Romania, and from Sweden to Italy. And yes, even Greece too!
What’s more, the EU Commission forecasts economic growth — again, across all members states — for 2017 and 2018. The Commission expects 1.8 percent growth across the whole of the EU for 2017 and 2018. Inflation is forecast to rise from 0.3% in 2016 to 1.8% in 2017 and 1.7% in 2018, according to the same report, as the past drop of energy prices has recently given way to an increase. The public deficit for the euro area is expected to decline from 1.7% of GDP last year to 1.4% in 2017 and 2018.
“Real GDP in the euro area has grown for 15 consecutive quarters, employment is growing at a robust pace and unemployment continues to fall, although it remains above pre-crisis levels. Private consumption is still the engine of the recovery. Investment growth continues but remains subdued,” according to the EU Commission’s Winter 2017 Economic Forecast.
This report, however, is marked by higher the usual uncertainty “due to the still-to-be-clarified intentions of the new administration of the United States in key policy areas,” the imminent elections across many member states and the upcoming “Article 50” negotiations with the UK.
By all means, it seems the EU is doing very well nowadays. The challenge now is to make sure this wealth is distributed more evenly across EU states and all segments of society. If people can’t feel the economic growth, this will do nothing but amplify the populist rhetoric.
Tibi is a science journalist and co-founder of ZME Science. He writes mainly about emerging tech, physics, climate, and space. In his spare time, Tibi likes to make weird music on his computer and groom felines.