The Netherlands, Luxembourg and Ireland are the richest countries in the European Union. The Eastern European member states are still relatively poor, but their economies are the fastest growing in the EU and they benefit most from their EU membership status.
Income increases by a quarter
The Netherlands is among the richest countries of the European Union. The gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was the third highest in the EU in 2006, only surpassed by Luxembourg and Ireland. Last year, the average income in the Netherlands was one quarter higher than the overall EU average.
GDP per capita, 2006
New member states relatively poor
The former Warsaw Pact countries, which recently joined the European Union are still by far the poorest member states. The income (GDP per capita) in Romania and Bulgaria, member states since 1 January 2007, is less than a quarter of the GDP per capita in the Netherlands. The Czech Republic and Slovenia have the highest average income of the countries in Eastern Europe which joined the EU in May 2004 and currently outperform Portugal.
The average income in Luxembourg is so high, due to its huge financial sector relative to its small population. Save Luxembourg, the average income in all EU member states is considerably lower than in the United States.
High economic growth in Eastern European member states
The economies of the poorer Eastern European countries grow rapidly. Their EU membership facilitates trade with other countries in the Union and economic growth in the former Warsaw Pact countries has been well above the EU average for several years. In 2006, economic growth in most Eastern European countries was indeed considerable.
Economic growth, 2006
The share of the new member states situated in Eastern Europe in total trade between the EU countries has grown substantially in recent years. Their market share rose from more than 5 to 9 percent between 1999 and 2005. The growth is detrimental to the market shares of large economies like Italy and the United Kingdom. The Netherlands accounted for nearly 12 percent of total exports within the EU in 2005, the largest market share in the EU after Germany.
Market share exports EU 25, 1999-2005
Source: StatLine, Eurostat