Economic Crisis in Europe:
Causes, Consequences and Responses
EUROPEAN ECONOMY 7|2009
The European Economy series contains important reports and communications from the Commission to the Council and the Parliament on the economic situation and developments, such as the Economic forecasts, the annual EU economy review and the Public ﬁnances in EMU report. Subscription terms are shown on the back cover and details on how to obtain the list of sales agents are shown on the inside back cover. Unless otherwise indicated, the texts are published under the responsibility of the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs of the European Commission, BU24, B-1049 Brussels, to which enquiries other than those related to sales and subscriptions should be addressed.
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More information on the European Union is available on the Internet (http://europa.eu). Cataloguing data can be found at the end of this publication. Luxembourg: Ofﬁce for Ofﬁcial Publications of the European Communities, 2009 ISBN 978-92-79-11368-0 doi 10.2765/845 40 © European Communities, 2009 Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged. Printed in Luxembourg
Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs
Economic Crisis in Europe: Causes, Consequences and Responses
The European economy is in the midst of the deepest recession since the 1930s, with real GDP projected to shrink by some 4% in 2009, the sharpest contraction in the history of the European Union. Although signs of improvement have appeared recently, recovery remains uncertain and fragile. The EU’s response to the downturn has been swift and decisive. Aside from intervention to stabilise, restore and reform the banking sector, the European Economic Recovery Plan (EERP) was launched in December 2008. The objective of the EERP is to restore confidence and bolster demand through a coordinated injection of purchasing power into the economy complemented by strategic investments and measures to shore up business and labour markets. The overall fiscal stimulus, including the effects of automatic stabilisers, amounts to 5% of GDP in the EU. According to the Commission's analysis, unless policies take up the new challenges, potential GDP in the EU could fall to a permanently lower trajectory, due to several factors. First, protracted spells of unemployment in the workforce tend to lead to a permanent loss of skills. Second, the stock of equipment and infrastructure will decrease and become obsolete due to lower investment. Third, innovation may be hampered as spending on research and development is one of the first outlays that businesses cut back on during a recession. Member States have implemented a range of measures to provide temporary support to labour markets, boost investment in public infrastructure and support companies. To ensure that the recovery takes hold and to maintain the EU’s growth potential in the long-run, the focus must increasingly shift from short-term demand management to supply-side structural measures. Failing to do so could impede the restructuring process or create harmful distortions to the Internal Market. Moreover, while clearly necessary, the bold fiscal stimulus comes at a cost. On the current course, public debt in the euro area is projected to reach 100% of GDP by 2014. The Stability and Growth Pact provides the flexibility for the necessary fiscal stimulus in this severe downturn, but consolidation is inevitable once the recovery takes hold and the risk of an economic relapse has diminished sufficiently. While respecting obligations under the Treaty and the...