Despite a number of regional challenges, many of which remain unresolved, the European Union (EU) grew by 1.4% in 2014, up from 0.1% in 2013.
The eurozone posted an even sharper turnaround, with real GDP increasing by 0.9% last year compared with a contraction of 0.5% over the previous 12 month period. In 2015, the region is expected to accelerate further with the EU (1.7%) forecast to expand slightly faster than the eurozone (1.3%).
Some of the economies worst affected by the regional slowdown are gathering momentum. Ireland was the standout performer over the past 12 months, posting GDP growth of 4.8%, driven by a 12.6% increase in exports, although growth is expected to moderate to 3.9% this year as overseas sales slow. Spain also returned to growth after three consecutive years of annual contraction. Its economy expanded by 1.4% in 2014, accelerating to a forecast 2.5% in 2015 as export growth picks up to 6.3%. Even Greece’s economy expanded in 2014 (0.8%) after six consecutive years of negative growth, although its outlook is clouded by ongoing debt negotiations.