Economic growth in the 15 Eurozone countries expanded more quickly than expected in the first quarter of the year, according to the EU’s statistics office. Overall, gross domestic product in the zone went up by 0.8 per cent compared to the last quarter of 2007 against an earlier prediction of 0.7 per cent.
The year-on-year growth figure was 2.2 per cent. Of the 15 nations, Spain led the way with 2.7 per cent growth. Germany’s expansion was driven by strong construction industry numbers boosted by a mild winter. France was in third with 2.2 per cent. Portugal and Italy proved to have the most sluggish economies.
But growth rates are expected to slow as high oil prices force costs up and spending power down. The EU’s Economic and Monetary Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia said: “(…There’s) an oil price revolution, and a food price revolution, so we will try to find a good answer. We have to discuss this at a multi-lateral level. I hope the next G8 summit will consider this issue.”
EU finance ministers have also given Slovakia the green light to join the euro zone on January 1st next year, according to a diplomat at talks in Luxembourg. The ministers say Slovakia meets all the criteria needed to become the zone’s 16th member, even though the European Central Bank remains concerned about the country’s inflation rate.