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European Economy: Will 2015 bring economic growth?

For nearly 60 years, Brussel’s celebrated Atomium has been a symbol of strength and hope for the future of Europe. But now it’s in an economic rut and indeed only new euro-currency recruits Lithuania and Ireland are expected to show strong growth. So what’s in store for the rest of Europe?
The continent may not have a model economy in 2015, but this mini-Europe here in Brussels seems the ideal place to meet up with one of Belgium’s top economists. We began musing on the pressure on Germany to get its mojo back by spending more.
It’s one of the only countries in Europe and the Eurozone which has its fiscal house in order. They could spend more money. That could help the German economy. It could help the European economy but they only want to do that on condition that countries like France or Italy do the structural reforms that are needed.
Well, 2014 was a really difficult year for Europe’s second largest economy: France. Its growth’s been stuttering and it’s got a nasty little continuing rout with Brussels over getting its deficit down.
France and Italy are, basically, the ones that still need to undertake a lot of structural reform. Portugal, Spain, Greece, as well as Ireland have done a lot of effort in the past couple of years as well. And you see growth returning in these countries, whereas the two laggers on the field of reforms, France and Italy, aren't growing at all.
It’s perhaps Italy and Spain that are most vulnerable to financial contagion from any new Greek government and willing to keep taking it’s bailout medicine. Yet there are some reasons to be cheerful.
We have the European Central Bank, which is probably willing to engage to much more aggressive monetary policy than we’ve seen in the past. They’re probably going to engage in quantitative easing that we’ve seen in the US and UK. Secondly, because of that, you see the euro has fallen substantially over the past couple of months and will do so over the next couple of months which will be good news for European export and growth.
And finally, the fall in oil prices we’ve seen in the past couple of months is a huge transfer from oil producing countries towards oil consuming countries. And that should be a boost to European growth as well.
The quest to find some growth and beat price deflation will continue in 2015. For old Europe, it’s a slow train ride back to prosperity. Nigel Cassidy, BBC News, Brussels.
Source: BBC

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