REPOST: Europe’s eastern tigers roar ahead

In Central and Eastern Europe, the world is looking at potentially the next economic powerhouses. The likes of Romania, Poland, and Hungary have recorded highly impressive growth rates over the past years and are expected to build new highways, modernized buildings, and a plethora of foreign investment in the next couple of decades. More insights from POLITICO:

Romania’s map is carved with a heart rate graph | Daniel Mihailescu/AFP via Getty Images

BUDAPEST — Forget the politics for a moment — check out the economics.

Central and Eastern EU members are in Brussels’ bad books over democratic and legal standards but their economies have become some of the bloc’s star performers.

Romania was the fastest growing economy in the EU last year, with an estimated GDP growth rate of 6.4 percent. Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are also growing more quickly than major economies in Western Europe and boast low unemployment. Of the 12 EU members forecast to grow by 3 percent or more this year, nine are former communist countries in the east of the Continent, according to the European Commission.

A visitor returning to these countries after a few years away will find new highways, modernized buildings, and a plethora of foreign investment. At the same time, low unemployment is boosting consumer confidence and domestic demand, while the continued flow of EU cohesion funds means money is still pouring into the region.

In some countries, unemployment is so low that it’s a problem. In Hungary, high demand for staff and an exodus of workers to Western Europe is making recruitment hard for some companies. Locals complain of having to wait six months just to have an apartment painted. Poland, the region’s largest economy, has thus far avoided a shortage of workers by importing labor, primarily from Ukraine.

Expected real GDP growth in 2018, divided into fastest growers (3% and over), steady growers (2-3%) and slowest growers.

Such strong economic performance is prompting political leaders in Central and Eastern Europe to demand a greater say in the future of the EU.

“Our country witnessed, at the end of 2017, its seventh consecutive year of growth,” Teodor Meleșcanu, Romania’s foreign minister, wrote in a note to POLITICO. “The first decade after the EU accession was one of growth and development, and we are confident that this next one will be one of consolidation, as we are increasingly active in all EU debates on the main themes concerning its future.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said this month the region was “making more of a contribution to the strength of the European Union than anyone would have thought back in 2004,” when eight Central and Eastern European countries joined the bloc.

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