European Union member states have managed to further reduce their budget deficits and government debt in the first quarter of this year. During the COVID-19 crisis, countries’ expenditures increased significantly as they aimed to compensate their populations and businesses for the economic damage caused by lockdowns. This led to higher debts and deficits.
The average budget deficit of EU member states decreased to 3.0 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the first three months of this year, according to Eurostat, the European statistical office. The budget deficit is now in line with European rules, after reaching 4.5 percent in the fourth quarter of last year. The decrease was a result of declining government spending and an increase in GDP.
High energy prices
Measures to mitigate the impact of high energy prices had a strong effect on government spending in the second half of 2022 and the first quarter of 2023. Most member states had a government deficit during this period. Hungary had the largest deficit, amounting to 11.1 percent of its national economy.
Germany and France, the two largest economies in the EU, had deficits of 2.2 percent and 5.1 percent respectively. The budget deficit in the Netherlands was 0.4 percent. There were also countries where revenues exceeded expenditures. Denmark and Ireland reported budget surpluses of around 3 percent.
The government debt slightly declined to an average of 83.7 percent of GDP, from 83.8 percent at the end of the fourth quarter of 2022. Greece remained the outlier within the EU with debts reaching more than 168 percent of GDP.