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Financial stability around the Euro area

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					Franz Nauschnigg1

                 European Economic Integration -
     Economic benefits and risks – Fast credit growth, volatility of
           capital flows and foreign currency circulation

    Financial stability around the Euro area in the context of global
                              market turmoil
                          Euro 50 Group Meeting
                         Budapest – July 1-2, 2008

Abstract

The countries in the Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe
(CESEE) region developed successfully and increased their integration
with the EU and especially the euro area substantially. The deepening of
financial integration contributed to high GDP growth which enabled these
countries a convergence process towards the euro area average. This
successful catching up strategy of deeper EU integration, especially the
financial and capital market integration is not without risks.
The main risks are:
First, fast credit growth with a high share of foreign currency loans. As a
measure against this risk, I propose the introduction of a credit growth
stabilisation tax (CGST) whose receipts should be put into a
countercyclical stabilisation fund (CSF).
Second, volatility of capital flows. Due to high current account deficits the
countries need to attract significant amounts of foreign capital. The
stability of capital flows is essential and I argue against the standard
assumption that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows are stable. FDI
can be as volatile as other forms of capital flows and does not
necessarily protect a country from sudden stops and capital outflows.
Third, substantial foreign currency circulation (Euroization) in this region
with the problem of currency mismatches, is shown by a new OeNB
survey.




1
  Head of European Affairs and International Financial Organizations Division, Oesterreichische Nationalbank
(OeNB). The views expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the
Oesterreichische Nationalbank.




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In recent years most of the countries in the Central, Eastern and South
Eastern Europe (CESEE) region developed successfully and increased
their integration with the EU and especially the euro area substantially.

    1. Economic benefits of European Economic Integration

The countries of the CESEE region have successfully liberalised, opened
their financial markets and implemented EU rules and regulations.
Especially the financial and capital market integration is now well
advanced.
This deepening of financial integration contributed to high GDP growth
which enabled these countries a convergence process towards the euro
area average. Slovenia in 2007 joined the Euro area and Slovakia will
follow in 2009. Other countries joined the EU in 2004 Poland, Czech
Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania or 2007 Bulgaria,
Romania. Some other CESEE countries are well advanced EU candidate
countries, like Croatia some will take some time like the FYR Macedonia,
Turkey. Others have an EU accession perspective and are potential
candidate countries such as Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo,
Montenegro and Serbia.

In Europe capital has been flowing from rich to poorer countries,
enabling them to increase investment and consumption simultaneously.
Elsewhere capital has flown “uphill” from poorer, mainly Asian and oil
producing countries to the US.
EU integration has generally been very beneficial for CESEE countries.
The Austrian economic research institute (WIFO) calculates that the new
EU member countries have grown on average 1%point annually faster
due to EU membership (Breuss, 2007). For the old EU 15 member
countries the growth benefit was on average 0.1 %points annually, the
biggest beneficiary being Austria with 0.25 %points annually.

These countries are mostly following the Austrian example of EU
integration which has been economically beneficial for Austria, especially
compared to Switzerland, which did not join the European Economic
Area (EEA) and EU. Austria was growing more or less at the same rate
as Switzerland in the 1980ies but could gain a decisive advantage in the
1990ies with a cumulated growth differential in its favour of 28 %points
from 1990 to 2006, see Annex 1. The different integration strategy of
Austria (EEA, EU, and EMU membership since the early 1990ies) and
Switzerland (no to EEA membership in 1992) - is one of the most
important factors for this difference (Nauschnigg, 2004, 2008).


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    2. Risks in European economic integration – fast credit growth,
       volatility of capital flows and foreign currency circulation

This successful catching up strategy of deeper EU integration, especially
the financial and capital market integration is however not without risks.
Capital movement and financial and capital market liberalisation can
increase the vulnerability of the economy and amplify already existing
problems in other sectors (Nauschnigg, 2005).
We have experienced in many countries volatile capital flows with boom
and bust cycles which easily lead to banking crisis. We should take care
to avoid such an outcome.
The Oesterreichische Nationalbank (OeNB) is carefully analysing the
CESEE region as Austrian banks are very active in and have a
significant exposure to this area.

High GDP growth in the CESEE region was fuelled by high investment
and consumption growth, financed by high credit growth. As domestic
savings were not sufficient to finance this high credit growth foreign
savings are used, leading to significant current account deficits.
This has led to financial vulnerability in these countries due to high credit
growth, the need to attract significant amounts of foreign capital and
substantial foreign currency lending.

Substantial financial imbalances have developed in recent years in the
CESEE region. Compared to other regions like Asia or Latin America the
CESEE region is potentially more vulnerable, due to high credit growth,
substantial foreign currency lending, significant current account deficits
and high degree of Euroization. As the World Bank (World Bank, 2007
page 35) has stated “In conclusion, a balanced approach between
ensuring the benefits of convergence are reaped on the one hand, and
ensuring its sustainability on the other hand, is required in the Emerging
European Countries where the risk that the current rapid credit growth
and macroeconomic imbalances lead to a painful adjustment is not to be
excluded”.
Despite these vulnerabilities the negative spill over from the global
financial turbulences on the CESEE region, except the Baltic States
seems to have been limited up to now. It remains to be seen if also the
countries of the CESEE region, on which the paper concentrates, will
also be affected at a later stage.

This paper concentrates on three of these risks and potential
vulnerabilities in the countries of the CESEE region around the euro
area.
   - First fast credit growth with a high share of foreign currency loans
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    - Second volatility of capital flows - due to high current account
      deficits with the need to attract significant amounts of foreign
      capital. The stability of capital flows is essential
    - Third substantial foreign currency circulation – Euroization


    3. Fast credit growth and foreign currency loans

Most countries in the CESEE region have experienced rapid private
sector credit growth in the last years. Whereas earlier this process was
seen as a necessary financial deepening to catch up with credit-to-GDP
levels seen in the Euro area, in recent years the question has arisen if
some countries have not already arrived at their long run equilibrium
levels, or are in the process of overshooting them. An OeNB study
(Backé, Égert, Walko, 2007) found that already in 2006 the development
in Croatia and Latvia may be interpreted as pointing to a risk of
overshooting private credit levels.
As table 1 shows private sector credit growth was still very fast
throughout the region in 2007, especially in Bulgaria with over 45 % and
in Romania with over 50 %. Only Croatia experienced a significant slow
down to over 8 % which was mainly due to a number of administrative
measures that had been introduced.
However, overall various macro- and prudential measures by the
authorities, to lower private sector credit growth have not been very
successful.
So far, the global financial turbulences seem to have been of limited
importance for the countries in the region in 2007. It remains to be seen
if we will see stronger reactions later in 2008.

Table 1
Growth of Domestic Credits to private Non Banks
                                           Real Credit growth in %
                                        2004    2005      2006     2007
Bulgaria                                43,2    23,4      17,5     45,7
Croatia                                 11,0    13,4      20,7      8,8
Poland                                   2,1     8,5      22,3     26,2
Romania                                 26,2    33,7      46,4     50,1
Slovakia.                                1,3    23,5      18,5     19,2
Slovenia                                19,9    21,5      22,5     26,2
Czech Republic                          10,6    19,2      20,1     21,8
Hungary                                 12,5    15,1       9,5     10,7
Source: Eurostat, National Central Banks, OeNB


As domestic savings were not sufficient to finance this high credit growth
foreign savings are used, leading to significant current account deficits.


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What is more worrying for financial stability is that a sizeable part of
these credits was in foreign currency, mainly euro. Over 50 % of credits
in Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Croatia were 2007 in foreign
currency as table 2 shows. In the Czech Republic due to low domestic
interest rates the incentive for foreign currency loans has been limited.
Only Slovenia has been able by joining the Euro area to reduce this risk
substantially and Slovakia should do so in 2009.

Table 2
Domestic Credits to private Non Banks in foreign Currency
in % of all Domestic Credits to private Non Banks
                                 2003      2004   2005  2006      2007
Bulgaria                         43,6      48,2   47,3  45,1      50,0
Croatia                          76,6      77,0   77,8  71,7      61,4
Poland                           30,6      25,3   25,9  27,0      24,2
Romania                          55,4      60,8   54,7  47,4      54,3
Slovakia.                        18,8      21,5   22,5  20,0      21,3
Slovenia                         27,1      43,1   55,7  63,4       7,3
Czech Republic                   12,8      11,2   10,0  10,4       9,1
Hungary                          33,7      39,0   45,9  49,6      57,2
Source: National Central Banks, OeNB


Especially households and small and medium sized enterprises oriented
to the domestic market face a substantial exchange rate risk as they
usually have unhedged positions.
Despite the high risks, private household have a substantial exposure to
credits in foreign currency, see table 3. Over 50 % in 2007 in Croatia,
Romania and Hungary as the following table shows. So households tend
to underestimate the exchange rate risk and look only at the interest rate
differential.

Table 3
Domestic Credits to private Households in foreign Currency
in % of all Domestic Credits to private Households
                                 2003      2004    2005 2006      2007
Bulgaria                           8,9     11,0    15,4 19,0      20,0
Croatia                          81,2      79,4    80,0 77,7      67,3
Poland                           n.a.      27,2    28,4 30,9      27,9
Romania                          29,3      45,9    44,1 41,2      53,1
Slovakia.                        n.a.       0,6     1,1  1,7       3,0
Slovenia                           1,0     22,5    37,4 41,7      15,2
Czech Republic                     0,5      0,3     0,3  0,2       0,2
Hungary                            4,6     12,9    29,2 42,7      55,0
Source: National Central Banks, OeNB


Various macroeconomic- and prudential measures by the authorities
have not been successful in dampening credit growth. As a study
(Herzberg, Watson, 2007) concludes “There may be limited scope to

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restrain credit or current account imbalances through macroeconomic
and financial policies”.

My proposal would be to use the tax system and introduce a credit
growth stabilisation tax (CGST).
If credit growth is deemed excessive e.g. compared to nominal GDP
growth, a tax on all private sector credit could be introduced. It would
start with a tax rate of 1 %point for all new credits allocated. If this is not
sufficient to curb the excessive credit growth the tax rate could be
increased to 2, 3, 4, 5 or more %points if necessary. If deemed
necessary one could also start with a higher tax rate. To especially
discourage foreign currency loans the tax rate should be substantial
higher e.g. by 1 - 3 %points, for such credits compared to credits in local
currency. Also lower tax rates for credits for economically beneficial and
necessary investments could be considered.
To avoid circumvention through other instruments e.g. leasing these
instruments could also be taxed. The tax should be collected by the
banks but ultimately owed by the debtor. It should also apply also to
credits taken in foreign countries, with reporting requirements and
payment by debtor, to avoid that residents just take a credit in another
country, to circumvent the tax.

The receipts from this tax should not flow into the budget but into a
cyclical stabilisation fund (CSF). This would allow countries to create
reserves in the boom phase and help to avoid overheating. The reserves
in the CSF could be used in the downswing or bust phase. These
counter cyclical policies would act as a countervailing force to pro
cyclical forces in the financial system like mark-to-market accounting and
value-at-risk models.
Such a system consisting of a CGST and a CSF would be especially
useful for countries with pegs or hard pegs as in this case the use of the
interest rate instrument is very limited.
It could also be used for countries in the Euro area. For example Austria
has such a credit tax – Kreditvertragsgebühr – which is however not
used for countercyclical purposes, but could be adapted to function
countercyclical.

Austria has already a countercyclical instrument in the financial sector
which I constructed and negotiated when I was Economic Adviser to the
Minster of Finance. This countercyclical instrument is already functioning
for 10 years successfully. Austria had since after the Second World War
a system of state subsidies for a savings system to further the
construction of residential property (Bausparen). Saving in this system is
subsidised so it is very popular and nearly all Austrians do it. We
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reformed the system so it became countercyclical by linking the subsidy
to interest rates. Higher subsidy when interest rates are high, lower
subsidy when interest rates are low, on the basis of an automatic formula
adjusted each year.

One additional prudential measure which should be considered is also
that home country supervisors require higher capital ratios for exposures
to countries in the CESEE region. This was required by Spanish
supervisors and helped to cushion Spanish banks when they incurred
heavy losses on their investments in Latin America.


    4. Volatility of capital flows

Most countries in the CESEE region need to attract significant amounts
of foreign capital to finance their high current account deficits. The
stability of capital flows is essential to avoid sudden stops or reversals of
capital flows.
As the IMF remarked concerning the convergence in emerging Europe
(IMF, 2008, page 38) “The convergence path may be volatile in countries
with large external imbalances, with risks of a hard landing. Current
account deficits are well above estimates justified by fundamentals and
subject to risks of an abrupt adjustment in most cases”. The IMF (IMF,
2007, page 3) also warned that “External stock and flow imbalances in
SEE are now larger than those in East Asia in 1996”.

The argument used by these countries and others against the riskiness
of these external imbalances is that the huge current account deficits are
financed by FDI inflows and FDI inflows are less volatile than other
capital flows. The IMF also supports this view (IMF, 2008, page 43 ff)
“FDI is less volatile than other capital flows as it cannot leave the country
on short notice”. “FDI financed current account deficits are generally
more sustainable and tend to adjust more gradually than deficits
financed by debt or portfolio flows”. And also (IMF, 2007, page 11) “In
Bulgaria and Romania, the probability of a sudden stop has partly been
kept in check by high FDI”.

When I chaired an UNCTAD expert meeting after the Asian crisis
(UNCTAD, 1998) on – The growth of domestic capital markets,
particularly in developing countries, and its relationship with foreign
portfolio investment - we first also had the expectation that FDI was the
most stable form of capital flow. However after long enquiries and
discussions we came to a different conclusion. Agreed conclusions
(UNCTAD, 1998) of the expert meeting: “as the domestic financial
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system becomes more sophisticated, the distinction between foreign
direct investment and foreign portfolio investment may become blurred
due to the fact that direct investors can use financial engineering
techniques to convert foreign direct investment into a more liquid form of
investment.”
FDI can therefore be as volatile as other forms of capital flows and does
not necessarily protect a country from sudden stops and capital outflows.


    5. Substantial foreign currency circulation

There was and still is wide spread use of foreign currencies in the
CESEE region (Nauschnigg, 2003), with the potential problem of
currency mismatches. With the successful cash change over the euro
replaced its legacy currencies also outside the euro area and became
the dominant foreign currency in the CESEE region, a phenomenon that
it is called Euroization.

As I already wrote earlier (Nauschnigg, 2003) “The dominant position of
the euro area in Europe and close economic integration with other
European countries will favour the euro against the dollar in Europe and
will allow the euro to become the dominant foreign currency in other
European and neighbouring countries. Accompanying network effects
and close regional trade and financial links should ensure that over time
the euro will most probably replace the dollar in Europe”.

The problem for the countries of the CESEE region is that a sizeable part
of their credits is given in foreign currency, mainly euro, which creates
substantial risks for financial stability, see chapter 3.

A new OeNB survey on foreign currency holdings, which was conducted
in 2007 in 11 countries, reveals that euro ownership is more widespread
in south eastern European (SEE) countries than in central and eastern
(CEE) countries and shows that the euro is the dominant foreign
currency, see chart 1. For further information also see (Dvorsky et al.,
2008).




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                                                                                                                                                                                    Chart 1
  Share of respondents holding foreign cash
   in % of respondents
  50


  45


  40


  35


  30


  25


  20


  15


  10


   5


   0
            Czech          Hungary          Poland         Slovakia         Bulgaria        Romania          Albania         Bosnia-          Croatia          FYR                Serbia
           Republic                                                                                                        Herzegovina                       Macedonia
          EUR US    D CHF GBP               OTHER
        Source: OeNB Euro Survey 2007.
        Note: GBP only asked in Poland.


Euro cash holdings show marked differences between countries and are
ranging from EUR 100 in the case of Hungary to more than EUR 650 in
Serbia, see chart 2.
                                                                                                                                                                                     Chart 2
  Respondents holding euro cash: median amounts
   in EUR
  700



  600



  500



  400



  300



  200



  100



    0
             Czech          Hungary          Poland         Slovakia         Bulgaria        Romania          Albania        Bosnia-          Croatia          FYR                Serbia
            Republic                                                                                                       Herzegovina                       Macedonia

         Source: OeNB Euro S  urvey 2007.
         Note: The figure shows median holdings of euro. Values are based on categorical answers. The median is calculated by linearily interpolating between class boundaries.




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Savings deposits denominated in euro are even more sizeable than
euro cash holdings and show also marked differences between
countries, see chart 3.
                                                                                                                                                                                Chart 3
  Respondents holding euro savings deposits: median amounts
   in EUR
  4000


  3500


  3000


  2500


  2000


  1500


  1000


   500


     0
             Czech            Hungary          Poland       Slovakia        Bulgaria       Romania          Albania        Bosnia-          Croatia          FYR             Serbia
            Republic                                                                                                     Herzegovina                       Macedonia

         Source: OeNB Euro Survey 2007.
         Note: The figure shows median holdings of euro savings deposits. For some countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic,
         Hungary, Poland) the number of observations is low (less than 30 obs) and hence medians may be unreliable.




Also the motives for holding euro cash and saving deposits differ
markedly between countries, see chart 4 and 5.
                                                                                                                                                                                 Chart 4
  Motives for holding euro cash
                                                                                   disagree                      agree

     Czech Republic

             Hungary

              Poland

             Slovakia

             Bulgaria

             Romania

              Albania

  Bosnia-Herzegovina

             Croatia

     FYR Macedonia

               Serbia

                       -2,0               -1,5             -1,0               -0,5                 0,0                  0,5                  1,0                 1,5                  2,0
                               normalized sample means for each country (-3.5 fully disagree, 0 neutral, +3.5 fully agree)

                        as a general reserve      to make payments in my country        to make payments abroad, for holidays
                   Source: OeNB Euro Survey 2007.
                   Note: Respondents who held euro cash were asked whether they agree or disagree on a scale from 1 (fully agree) to 6 (fully disagree) to the statement that they
                   hold euro cash as a general reserve, etc.




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                                                                                                                                                                                 Chart 5
  Motives for holding euro savings deposits
                                    disagree                                         agree

       Czech Republic

              Hungary

               Poland

              Slovakia

              Bulgaria

              Romania

               Albania

    Bosnia-Herzegovina

              Croatia

       FYR Macedonia

                Serbia

                     -1,0                      -0,5                  0,0                        0,5                        1,0                            1,5                        2,0
                                  normalized sample means for each country (-3.5 fully disagree, 0 neutral, +3.5 fully agree)
                             to make payments abroad, for holidays
                             to make payments in [my country]
                             as a general reserve
                         Source: OeNB Euro Survey 2007.
                         Note: Respondents who held euro savings deposits were asked whether they agree or disagree on a scale from 1 (fully agree) to 6 (fully disagree) to the
                         statement that they hold euro savings deposits because the euro will be introduced sooner or later, etc. Furthermore, for some countries (Czech Republic,
                         Hungary and P oland) the number of observations is very low (less than 40 obs.)




The results of the survey on cash holdings and deposits show that the
euro plays an important role in the CESEE region, but a more substantial
role in SEE than in CEE. This high degree of Euroization increases the
risk of currency mismatches substantially.

   6. Conclusion
Through currency pegs and the euro circulation in the CESEE region an
extended euro zone is created around the euro area as the core. This
benefits regional economic, especially trade and financial links. The
substantial risks for financial stability in the countries of the CESEE
region need to be well managed to avoid costly financial crisis.

The benefits of convergence must be reaped and its sustainability
ensured, so that a painful adjustment is avoided. If this is done well,
substantial welfare gains for the CESEE region, the euro area and other
countries in this extended euro zone could be achieved.




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References

Backé, Égert, Walko (2007). Credit Growth in Central and Eastern
Europe Revisited. In: OeNB, Focus on European Economic Integration
2/07

Breuss, F. (2007). Erfahrungen mit der EU-Erweiterung. In: WIFO
Monatsberichte 12/2007

Dvorsky, Sandra, Scheiber, Thomas and Helmut Stix. 2008.
(forthcoming) Euroization in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe
– First Results from the New OeNB Euro Survey. In: Focus on European
Economic Integration 1. Vienna.

Herzberg, Watson (2007). Economic Convergence in South-Eastern
Europe: Will the Financial Sector Deliver? In: SUERF Studies 2007/2

IMF, (2007). Vulnerabilities in Emerging Southeastern Europe – How
much Cause for Concern? IMF Working Paper WP/07/236, October
2007

IMF, (2008). Regional Economic Outlook Europe – Reassessing Risks

Nauschnigg, F. (2003). Kapitalverkehrsliberalisierung –
Die österreichischen Erfahrungen. In: Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, 29(1)

Nauschnigg, F. (2003). Kapitalverkehrsliberalisierung. In: Globalisierung
und Kapitalverkehr, Wirtschaftspolitische Blätter 4/2003

Nauschnigg, F. (2003). The Euro and the Use of Foreign currencies in
Central and Eastern Europe. In: INFER Studies Vol. 8, The Euro in
Eastern Europe: Options for the Monetary and Currency Regime

Nauschnigg, F. (2004). Fast alle haben gewonnen - Eine wirtschaftliche
Kosten-Nutzen-Rechnung des EU-Beitritts für Österreich. In: Arbeit &
Wirtschaft, November 2004

Nauschnigg, F. (2005). The Austrian Experience with Financial
Transformation through EU/EMU Membership – Possible Lessons for
CEE Countries. In: Financial Sectors Development in Central and
Eastern European Countries and EU Integration; Workshop and
Conference proceedings organised by the Economics Policy Institute

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                                                   13

(Sofia) and the Institute for World Economics of the Hungarian Academy
of Sciences (Budapest)

UNCTAD, (1998). Report of the expert meeting on the growth of
domestic capital markets, particularly in developing countries, and its
relationship with foreign portfolio investment. TD/B/COM.2/12,
TD/B/COM.2/EM.4/3; 17 June 1998

World Bank, (2007). Credit Growth in Emerging Europe; A Cause for
Concern? Policy Research Working Paper 4281, July 2007




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Abbildung
                                                                                                                                                                178,5
                               180
                                                                                                                                                     173,2
                                        Vergleich: Wirtschaftswachstum                                                                           169,8
                               170                                                                                                     164,0 165,8
                                        Österreich, Schweiz                                                                    161,2

                               160
  Index 1981 = 100 % des BIP




                                                                                                                                  162,5
                                                                                                                     151,0
                                                                                                                             155,9
                               150             ÖSTERREICH                                                   143,1
                                                                                                                     145,7
                                                                                                  136,9                              137,1      137,3           147,0
                               140
                                                                                        132,9             139,5                                         143,1
                                                                                129,8                                  131,1
                                                                                                133,3                                   137,6     140,4
                               130                                      125,3                                125,9             135,8
                                                                                              122,9                  129,4
                                                                    119,8            121,1
                               120                               115,7                     122,4    123,5
                                                              111,8           121,3
                                                         110,2            122,3  121,3                                  Differenz Wachstum
                                              105,1
                                                    107,8             117,8
                               110    101,9105,1                                                                        Österreich - Schweiz
                                                                  112,6
                                                              109,0
                                                                                          SCHWEIZ                       entsteht vor allem in
                                     100                 107,6
                                                    105,8                                                               90iger Jahren - EWR,
                               100              102,3
                                 100   98,7 99,2                                                                        EU Beitritt
     90
 Jahre
                                  81
                                  82
                                  83
                                  84
                                  85
                                  86
                                  87
                                  88
                                  89
                                  90
                                  91
                                  92
                                  93
                                  94
                                  95
                                  96
                                  97
                                  98
                                  99
                                  00
                                  01
                                  02
                                  03
                                  04
                                  05
                                  06
                               19
                               19
                               19
                               19
                               19
                               19
                               19
                               19
                               19
                               19
                               19
                               19
                               19
                               19
                               19
                               19
                               19
                               19
                               19
                               20
                               20
                               20
                               20
                               20
                               20
                               20
Quelle: Eurostat, eigene Berechnungen (für diese bin ich Dr. Herbert Nekvasil zu Dank verpflichtet)


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