Tue, Dec 31, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Van Rompuy predicts EU economic gains next year

CRISIS AVERTED?:The European Council president said that after years of crisis, the region’s countries will experience an economic upswing in the coming year

AFP, BRUSSELS and ATHENS

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy on Sunday forecast an economic upswing for Europe next year in an interview with Belgium’s Flemish-speaking broascaster VTM.

Even euro-strugglers such as Spain and Greece are showing signs of positive growth, Van Rompuy told VTM News.

While this year saw EU nations overcome the crisis, next year will be the year of revival though this is not yet visible in continuously poor unemployment data, he said.

Creating jobs will require more time, said Van Rompuy, who is currently working on a book to be titled “Europe After the Storm.”

“In the eurozone, except Slovenia and Cyprus, we will go to positive economic growth,” he added, referring to the 17 nations currently sharing the euro.

EUROSKEPTICISM

He brushed off fears that elections to the European Parliament in May will see a sharp rise in euroskeptic populist parties.

“Euroskepticism is something of all times,” he said, pointing to the longtime popularity of France’s former far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has been succeeded by his daughter, Marine Le Pen.

“I am convinced that an overwhelming majority of Europe’s population favors the EU, even if euro-adverse parties form a strong minority,” he said.

Separately, Greece is hoping to return to bond markets in the second half of next year — but only if growth and a primary budget surplus permits, the Greek finance minister said on Sunday.

BOND MARKET RETURN

“We are preparing a return to the markets in the second half of 2014,” Yannis Stournaras said in an interview published in the Realnews weekly. However, he stressed that was conditional on economic growth and a budget surplus not counting debt servicing costs.

The sick man of Europe ever since it almost crashed out of the eurozone in 2010, Greece has been shut out of mid and long-term bond markets and has relied on bailout funds from the EU and the IMF.

It has only been able to issue short-term public debt notes.

Government forecasts predict a primary budget surplus of 3 billion euros (US$4 billion) next year, after a surplus of 812 million euros this year. It also figures on a return to growth, of 0.6 percent, after six years of recession.

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