There is much talk in Europe at the moment about the potential spread of separatist movements, a consequence of Catalonia’s referendum on independence. A number of maps have appeared on the internet pointing to various regions which may be next in line. The spectre of disintegrating states haunts some European Union states and is perceived (or instrumented) as a threat by others. In the eastern part of the EU, there is much talk about the case of the Silesians (some even mention the Kashubians) in Poland, the Hungarians of the Székely Land in Romania and Slovakia, Moravians in the Czech Republic, Russians in Latgale (Latvia), and the historical region of Samogitia in Lithuania.
All 23 economies of emerging Europe are set to record positive growth in 2018, led by Georgia, whose GDP is seen as growing by more than 4.2 per cent. Even Azerbaijan, whose economy has contracted for the past two years, is seen as returning to modest positive growth in 2018. The regional outlook is stable, but a couple of places, notably Romania, are giving cause for concern.
The finance ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania announced on November 6 that they had agreed to create a pan-Baltic capital market to strengthen their economies and stimulate investment. Toomas Tõniste (Estonia), Dana Reizniece-Ozola (Latvia) and Vilius Šapoka (Lithuania) signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Brussels in which the three countries agreed to harmonise capital market regulations and dismantle investment barriers. All three Baltic States suffer from a number of constraints caused by the relatively small size of their markets: the agreement should help them overcome such limitations.
Limited access to quality education, jobs and services, and the need for better cooperation between regional and central government are just two of the reasons that the Riga region underperformed in the latest survey of the Latvian economy carried out by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Eastern Europe and Central Asia has closed on average 71 per cent of its gender gap, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report. Overall, 68 per cent of the global gender gap has been closed, a slight deterioration on 2016 and 2015, when the gap was 68.3 per cent and 68.1 per cent respectively.
The otherwise monotonous Baltic banking sector has recently seen some tremors with two Nordic banks Nordea and DNB merging into one business, Luminor, a new bank. There are also strong rumours regarding the possible arrival of a Polish bank, PKO, in Lithuania, the largest Baltic state.
Georgia is the easiest place in emerging Europe to do business, according to the latest edition of the World Bank’s Doing Business report, which compares conditions for doing business in 190 countries across the world. Among the top 20, Georgia, with a ranking of 9th, has implemented the highest number of business regulation reforms since the launch of Doing Business in 2003—a total of 47.
The Czech passport is the most powerful of those issued by the 23 countries of emerging Europe. According to the most recent Passport Index, it is ranked eighth globally and allows its holders to travel visa-free to 152 countries around the world. The Hungarian passport is the second most powerful in the region, the only difference to the Czech equivalent being its failure to offer visa-free travel to Lesotho.
The Baltic States are waging a war against unhealthy eating and drinking habits, and the Estonian government has been active on a number of fronts. First it raised excise duty on alcohol, and then quickly pushed forward legislation aiming to reduce sugar in food and beverages, duly passed by the Estonian parliament, the Riigikogu, in June 2017. The law introduced taxes on all sweetened drinks containing more than 5 grams of sugar per 100 milliitres.
Almost 973 million passengers travelled by air in the European Union in 2016, 5.9 per cent more than in 2015 and 29 per cent more than in 2009. Central and Eastern Europe registered the highest increases, with Bulgarian and Romanian air traffic climbing by 22.5 per cent and 20.5 per cent respectively. The two regional leaders were followed by Hungary (up 14.1 per cent), Croatia (13.8 per cent), and Lithuania (13.3 per cent). According to Eurostat, the total number of people travelling by air from the CEE-EU11 member states exceeded 211 million. Continue reading CEE Boosted by Positive Tourism Trends Across the Region
Economic growth in Europe and Central Asia (ECA) will be 2.2 per cent in 2017, the strongest growth in six years, and 0.3 percentage points above May’s expectations. According to the World Bank’s latest Regional Economic Update, Migration and Mobility in Europe and Central Asia, ECA economies are showing more rapid growth than previously expected with a GDP almost twice the average growth in the European Union. Continue reading Despite Public Anxieties, Migration is Playing a Key Role in ECA Growth
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of chairing a panel of thought leaders and industry experts at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London. The subject matter was centred on the ICT industry in the Ukraine specifically, and the broader Central and Eastern European (CEE) region in general. Continue reading Is the CEE Region About to Steal the Outsourcing Crown From India?