European Commission

Sluggish Italy

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EC

Italy is being to forecast to have the weakest growth, at 0.1%, and the EC describes the Italian economy as having "sluggish" growth.

"In 2020, which has two additional working days, real GDP is forecast to expand by 0.7%. The forecast scenario is based on a no-policy-change assumption and does not incorporate the effects of hikes in indirect taxes envisaged for 2020 in the government plans," it says.

And on the deficit, the government deficit is expected to increase to 2.5% of GDP, mainly due to the slowdown in economic growth, and 3.5% in 2020.

More on growth forecasts

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In February the European Commission had been forecasting eurozone growth of 1.3% for this year - and has now cut this to 1.2%.

GDP across the EU is forecast to grow by 1.4%.

Italy's forecast was cut to 0.1% - from 0.2% previously.

But Pierre Moscovici, commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, says the European economy will continue to grow in 2019 and 2020.

"Growth remains positive in all our member states and we continue to see good news on the jobs front, including rising wages. This means that the European economy is holding up in the face of less favourable global circumstances and persistent uncertainty.

"Nonetheless, we should stand ready to provide more support to the economy if needed, together with further growth-enhancing reforms. Above all, we must avoid a lapse into protectionism, which would only exacerbate the existing social and economic tensions in our societies.”

GDP growth next year is forecast to strengthen slightly to 1.6% in the EU and 1.5% in the euro area.

European growth forecasts

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The European Commission has published a quarterly economic forecast for the EU's 28 countries.

It says eurozone GDP would grow 1.2% this year - below the 1.9% registered in 2018.

"Downside risks to the outlook remain prominent. The risk of protectionist measures worldwide and the current slowdown in world GDP growth and trade could turn out to be more persistent than expected, particularly if growth in China disappoints.

"In Europe, risks include that of a ‘no-deal' Brexit and the possibility that temporary disruptions currently weighing on manufacturing could prove more enduring. There is also the risk that a rise in political uncertainty and less growth-friendly policies could result in a pull-back in private investment," the commission said.

EU to talk trade with US

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European Union is to start formal trade talks with the United States.

EU governments voted by a majority to approve the negotiating mandates proposed by the European Commission, although France voted against and Belgium abstained.

Emissions 'collusion'

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The EU competition body has told BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen that, in its preliminary view, they breached EU antitrust rules from 2006 to 2014 by colluding to restrict competition on the development of technology to clean the emissions of petrol and diesel passenger cars.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said:"Companies can cooperate in many ways to improve the quality of their products. However, EU competition rules do not allow them to collude on exactly the opposite: not to improve their products, not to compete on quality.

We are concerned that this is what happened in this case and that Daimler, VW and BMW may have broken EU competition rules. As a result, European consumers may have been denied the opportunity to buy cars with the best available technology. The three car manufacturers now have the opportunity to respond to our findings."

The preliminary findings come two years after dawn raids on their premises.